Multigenerational travel is healthy for everyone. Photo: Deposit Photos

25 Apr When the Extended Family Vacations Together

As the weather warms, many folks are beginning to think about vacation season. As you make your plans, you might consider expanding the vacation to become multigenerational by including grandparents and great-grandparents, too—for everyone’s health and happiness.

New research shows there are many benefits to the multigenerational vacation.

Photo contributed by Parkdean Resorts

The Grandparent Boom

Due to an aging population around the world, there are now more grandparents and great-grandparents than ever before. There are so many, in fact, that some censuses are calling it the “grandparent boom.” In both the U.S. and UK, for example, it’s estimated that one in three people is a grandparent.

A new study by Parkdean Resorts, the UK’s largest holiday park operator, and Aston University’s biogerontologist, Dr. James Brown, shows that health and happiness are largely affected by family involvement. And what better way to keep the grandparents involved than by taking a multigenerational vacation?

To investigate the benefits of a four-generation holiday, Dr. Brown recently conducted surveys and studies on Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, a TV series focused on a UK retirement home that recently opened a classroom setting in which preschoolers and nursing home residents can interact daily.

Photo contributed by Parkdean Resorts

Multigenerational Travel in the U.S.

Although the studies were conducted throughout the UK, any cross-referenced research shows that many of the findings are exactly compatible with U.S. populations.

Benefits of Multigenerational Travel

Dr. Brown found that multigenerational vacations have similar helpful effects on grandparents and great-grandparents. From his results, he notes that quality time with the family can positively affect anything from mood to memory to physical function.

One of the most important benefits of a four-generation holiday is the reduction of loneliness in elderly adults. As Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds revealed, many older folks report feeling socially isolated and lonely. The Parkdean Resorts research shows that only about one-third of grandparents and great-grandparents have taken a multigenerational vacation in the past year.

A multigenerational holiday can give older adults something to look forward to, which Dr. Brown believes is crucial. He said, “We found in both series’ of OPHF4YO that many residents felt socially isolated and had little to look forward to. We know that psychology drives a lot of biology, so without a sense of purpose, biological systems can start to shut down and you can literally die of a broken heart. That’s why it’s essential to give older adults not just a sense of purpose but also something to look forward to.”

The research also revealed that more than 70 percent of grandparents and great-grandparents feel marginally happier after spending time with their grandchildren, and over half claim improved mental health. It’s safe to say these results are unsurprising.

Dr. Brown said, “Intergenerational studies have shown that spending time with young children improves mental health almost immediately. Anybody who spends time around a happy child will feel happier; it’s infectious. And nothing makes you happier than a holiday.”

Mental improvement is not the only effect reported through these studies. One-third of the grandparents involved in the project claimed physical improvements, as well. Keeping up with those little adventurers is an exercise that is sure to unlock the youth in us all.

Photo contributed by Parkdean Resorts

Where to Vacation With the Extended Family

Now that the question of who you’re traveling with is answered, let’s think about where you want to go. The good news is that there are numerous options for active, inclusive, adventurous vacations within the U.S. and the U.K. Vacations don’t always mean heading to the airport.

Drive down to the coast and spend days sitting on the beach with your family, toes in the sand and sun on your face. Spend a week in the city, touring museums and historical landmarks. Rent an RV and experience the wonders of the countryside by driving through national parks and eating at famous restaurants. The options, truly, are limitless.

John Waterworth, chief executive of Parkdean Resorts in the U.K., said, “A family getaway is a perfect opportunity to spend quality time together, away from the stresses of everyday life. It can remind older adults of the good old days, as many of them will have enjoyed UK holidays when they were younger, triggering a comforting sense of nostalgia.”

Prompting nostalgic memories can be fundamental to keeping the brain young and improving memory function. Dr. Brown said, “Autobiographical memory contains the information you have about yourself. And for most older adults, a UK holiday will trigger nostalgic thoughts like ‘I can remember coming here when I was younger’ or ‘I can remember caravan holidays like this when I was a child.’”

Don’t underestimate a grandparent’s will for adventure. The positive effects of a four-generation vacation are boundless. And let’s be honest: A big family holiday is beneficial to more than just our older relatives. Who knows what unmatched wisdom our grandparents might share when given the opportunity?

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