Senior woman petting dog

How to Incorporate Therapeutic Recreation in Your Senior’s Schedule

The second week of July is National Therapeutic Recreation Week, a time to raise awareness of therapeutic recreation programs and services that improve the quality of life, health, and well-being of those with mental, physical, and emotional disabilities. Recreational therapy involves the use of recreational activities that have been prescribed as treatments by trained and certified professionals, with interventions including anything from adapted sports and expressive arts to progressive muscle relaxation and horticulture. Therapeutic recreation could benefit the senior in your life as part of their home health service offerings in Alameda and elsewhere.

Defining Recreational Therapy

Therapeutic recreation, also known as recreational therapy, is a systematic process utilizing recreation and other similar activity-based interventions to address the needs of people who have illnesses or disabling conditions to improve their psychological and physical health, well-being, and recovery, according to the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA). Put another way, this is a treatment service that is meant to restore, remediate and rehabilitate the level of functioning of an individual as well as independence in enjoying life activities. The end goal is to promote health and wellness and reduce or eliminate activity restrictions and limitations that can hinder participation in everyday life situations brought on by illness or a disabling condition.

It’s not all about fun and games, though. There is some real work involved behind the scenes, with a purpose behind each recommended activity. Each activity is specifically targeted to each person, whether they suffer from a physical injury or a mental illness. Not only do they need assistance with learning to live with their disability, but they also need assistance with enhancing their quality of life by reducing or eliminating the isolation that so many of them experience. To that end, they are then able to better participate in leisure activities that they used to enjoy. Sometimes, they can learn new activities, too, that they have never tried before.

Recreational therapists (RTs) are professionals who can help seniors build confidence and socialize within their communities by reducing depression, anxiety, and stress. The goal is to get seniors to become active partners in their own health care journey in order to enjoy better productivity, independence, well-being, and quality of life.

Recreational therapy uses a variety of techniques to achieve this, such as through arts and crafts, animal therapy, sports, dance, games, music, drama, and community outings, says the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

Top Engaging RT Activities

There are many ways to work therapeutic recreation into your senior’s life. Here are a few top examples.

  1. Animal Therapy

Many seniors feel isolated and lonely, and perhaps they have difficulty bonding with other humans. That’s where animal therapy can come in very handy. Nurturing a relationship with a pet, whether a dog, cat, or some other animal, is a universally-rewarding experience. It’s been proven that just spending time with animals can reduce depression and stress, increase productivity and activity levels, and provide a sense of nurturing, goodwill, and joy, according to the American Heart Association.

  1. Brain Teasers

Seniors can do crossword puzzles, logic puzzles, and riddles to challenge their minds, which can help reduce cognitive decline, promote longer attention spans, and improve memory, as well as visual and spatial processing.

  1. Music

This is an easy way to reduce stress. For seniors, music is a reminder of past experiences, which aids in memory recall.

  1. Art Therapy

Art therapy is great for seniors who like to express themselves creatively. Such artistic pursuits can include drawing, painting, sculpting, or singing, each one of which can be done alone or with others to promote a feeling of togetherness.

  1. Cooking and Baking

These tasks help seniors stay active while using all five senses. Older adults have compiled many skills during their lives and know their way around a kitchen, and as such may enjoy sharing that knowledge with others. They can teach grandchildren simple recipes, swap generational recipes, or participate in cooking and baking workshops to acquire new skills.

  1. Outdoor Recreation

There are numerous benefits to getting fresh air, and this is even more important for home-bound seniors. Fresh air cleans out your lungs, boosts your mood, lowers your heart rate, increases your energy levels, and improves your digestion. Your senior doesn’t have to go on a long, taxing hike in the woods to get the benefits. Even a short walk around the neighborhood can improve energy levels, muscle strength, and balance. There is no doubt about the restorative power of fresh air and exercise, no matter how short the experience is. Examples include swimming, biking, walking, camping, gardening, and other activities that take place in natural places.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

In our effort to help your family and your senior loved one navigate their illness in home health care, Pathways offers several resources and referrals to professionals who can provide a wide range of therapeutic recreation programs. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help at 888-978-1306.