OBJECTIVE: Grey nomads - older people driving long distances recreationally and staying in caravans, tents or motor homes - are common on Australian highways. Although grey nomads report many benefits from their travels, there is anecdotal evidence that they impose a significant burden on rural/remote health services, including general practitioners, pharmacists and hospitals. There have been calls for better resourcing and service provision, but little reference to solid evidence on which to base this. This literature review is the first to integrate existing evidence for a health audience.
DESIGN: Narrative literature search and synthesis.
RESULTS: There is very little published information about the health and health service utilisation of grey nomads, and almost none in the medical literature. One key exception, a survey at a caravan park in the Kimberley region, found that, like other older Australians, many grey nomads have chronic diseases, and they have high rates of medication use. However, other studies have found that they generally view themselves as relatively healthy. There is some evidence of inadequate preparation for travelling. Issues include lack of health summaries, inadequate medication supplies and suboptimal vaccination. Some experience emergencies, sometimes resulting in hospital admissions. Overall, they place a poorly documented burden on rural/remote services.
CONCLUSION: There is a need for further research on the health of grey nomads, their use of self-care strategies, and their uptake of health services both on the road and at home, to inform the provision of health services and optimise their well-being and health care utilisation.