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Definition of the Geriatric Tourism and the difference with Health and Senior Tourism

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Most people around the age of 50 start developing one or more chronic conditions (Vogeli et al., 2007). The most usual multiple chronic conditions are coronary disease and heart failure, blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus of type II, arthritis, osteopenia, forms of dementia, and musculoskeletal problems that can lead to degrees of frailty impeding traveling for leisure.
By well‐being, it is meant the subjective well‐being of a person in the balance between external and internal factors determining the level of their satisfaction, personal growth, and accomplishment (Gallup Well‐being Index). Travel is an important factor for a person's well‐being.
When this segment of 50+ with comorbidities travels exclusively for elective health or wellness interventions they are traveling for health or medical tourism.
The difference to the geriatric tourism and other similar types lies on the willingness to travel, which is not for health reasons and the product choice the segments after 50 years will make according to their classification to various levels of frailty and impairment caused by the evolution of their chronic conditions in time. However, people with impairments due to chronicity are willing, and they continue to travel provided that the right conditions enabling this are met at the destination.
A tourist segment that is perfectly healthy and fit around 50 years is very volatile and can change category abruptly, due to an incident caused by the consequences of ageing, if the impairment caused is permanent and severe such as in the case of a heart attack or stroke. However, in healthy and active years, classifying the age group above 50 years under one segment as “seniors” does not represent the reality to their capacities and level of frailty and impairment if this exists at all.

Is really the segment “senior tourist” relevant?

In most people with chronic conditions, onset does not occur often especially when they travel. Their condition when it is still at early stages does not generate impairment, and it is manageable from themselves and their closest to them without compromising their quality of life, and apart from occasional needs for care and health monitoring by doctor, they are not considered as patients (Bernell & Howard, 2016) but people with chronicity and their chronic condition is not considered an illness (Upshur & Tracy, 2008).
The segment from 50 to 70 years is mentioned as “senior” at the bibliography for different socio‐economic reasons setting the limit at 50 years (Kim, Wei, & Ruys, 2003), at 55 years (Shim, Gehrt, & Siek, 2005), at 60 years (Horneman, Carter, Wei, & Ruys, 2002), and at 65–70 years (Zimmer, Braley, & Searle, 1995) without taking into account that by categorizing different segments as “seniors” under one age group they merge different lifestyle, physical, cognitive, and psychological conditions, something that might be even seen as stereotyping.
This grouping of people after 50 years as “seniors” or “3rd Age” where ageing happens at an individual and different pace is even more problematic when the comorbidities start to provoke impairment or even disability, creating not only an admitted segmentation problem to the travel industry but also to the policy makers: How should we call active and healthy people above a certain age especially after retirement? The term applied by the American Medical Association is “older person” or a “grown‐up” used by the American Association of Retired Persons.
 

Definition of the geriatric tourism and the geriatric tourist - The difference is at the product offer

After the age of 70 years, the tourist is faced with two important phenomena that diminish sharply their intention to travel. The first is a decrease in physical ability and subjective age plunge (Barrett (2003) and the second that most insurers and operators do not insure them anymore for travel. In daily living, depending on the severity of their comorbidities and degree of impairment, this segment is considered in medicine as geriatric patients. Subjective age may provoke such psychological frailty that may influence the otherwise good physical ability, according to the subjective perception of age changes.

This is the main differentiation of the geriatric tourism with others: The geriatric tourism products and travel conditions would provide assurance to the person who would not otherwise decide to travel.

The difference with medical and health tourism product offer has been already stated: The geriatric patient is just in the need of some sort of health monitoring and care support, neither for an elective intervention nor for health rehabilitation or cure, but just for leisure, and therefore can neither be considered as medical nor a health tourism traveler. The point that differentiates sharply the geriatric tourist than others is pricing. If price is at the end of the criteria to choose a destination for medical or health tourism, it matters a lot for people above the age of retirement, even more with frailty and impairment. (Vigolo, 2017).

In geriatric tourism, travelers wish to enhance their physical and mental health condition degraded due to ageing by rejuvenating experiences but not necessarily treatments or wellness that might be included in the offer but do not constitute the primary core product offer for which they would travel and the motivation to travel does not really differ from the segment of the same age (Darcy, 2010).

Active and healthy ageing/well-being products are the best suited for geriatric tourism - Difference with wellness products offer

Well‐being as defined by the World Health Organization is a multifactor state of mind, including health (Taylor et al., 2017), whereas wellness tourism services are mainly about health enhancement.
Although wellness provision can only be observed in a setting of a spa resort or other facilities where wellness services are offered, wellbeing tourism products are related to the exogenous factors that affect a person's well‐being: income, environment, social environment, national attitude, religion/principles, and general good health that can be included in packages of geriatric tourism but also to endogenous, such as individual development activities, satisfaction from the life of the person, and mental functioning. It is important to make this distinction as there are efforts in the market to distort the well‐being methodology by monopolizing well‐being ecosystem's elements as those of wellness, which is a contradiction in terms but also in substance.
Well‐being tourists are people that pursue an active and healthy lifestyle and are looking for experiences to submerge to a destination's culture and tradition and prefer packages including a vast array of well‐being activities including, or not, wellness, health improvement, spa, and so on.
This kind of tourism offer exists but it should be marketed with emphasis on general aspects this age group prefers such as safety, learning, socializing, longer stays in a destination, slower pace of living, and healthier living, along with other well‐being enhancing activities. (Bausch, 2016).

Impact Investing, Wellbeing, LTC resource based Implementation - Silver Tourism, Place Branding expert - Gerontologist

Stella I. Tsartsara

More info

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/definition-geriatric-tourism-difference-health-senior-tsartsara/

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