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Five Recreational Therapy Interventions With Older Adults In Mind

As we age, our needs change. What we once might have done daily for leisure might be seen as too dangerous, too out of reach, too time-consuming; for fear of falling, hospitalization, or anything in between. Recreational therapy, designed and implemented by a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist can aid older adults in getting back to what they used to enjoy, find new hobbies, and create a sense of community that many times is lacking as we age. Below are 5 recreational therapy interventions that have older adults in mind:


1. Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) includes a set of non-pharmacological interventions aimed at improving human health through the use of trained animals. Research has shown that pet owners are generally less likely to feel lonely, visit the doctor less often, take less medication, recover from illness faster, and cope better with stress. One study even found that spending just 15 minutes with an animal initiates hormonal changes in the brain, dropping stress levels and increasing serotonin (the “feel-good” hormone) levels. There are a plethora of emotional, physical, and mental benefits of animal-assisted therapy; including but not limited to increased mobility, lower blood pressure, improved mental stimulation, and increased self-esteem.


2. Leisure Education & Skill Building

Older adults may have an overall lack of leisure in their daily lives, and EmpoweRT aims to mitigate that. Recreation Therapists work to adapt and teach new skills, as well as minimize barriers to leisure so older adults can participate in recreational pursuits during therapy sessions, and on their own. A great example of skill-building leisure could be the recreational pursuit of creating art. Creating art has long been considered an incredibly therapeutic experience. Because creating something from nothing, using pencils, paint, clay, or other materials can be a satisfying experience. The therapeutic use of art encompasses the fun of art, with the purpose of therapy, with goals tailored to specific needs. For older adults, therapeutic art programming can also help restore functioning and a general sense of well-being. Therapeutic art programs also have been proven to aid in increasing cognitive skills, intellectual stimulation, improve physical/motor skills, promote socialization, and relieve stress.

3. Aquatic Exercise

We know that regular exercise and staying active are key to aging well and staying healthy. Associated with an improved overall wellness, reduced risk of falls, dementia prevention, and even a lower risk of death, regular exercise is non-negotiable for older adults seeking to stay healthy as they age. But sometimes health conditions can make traditional exercise challenging. Aquatic exercise is a great solution for seniors to exercise regularly while reducing the impact on joints. Aquatic exercise has been shown to enhance mood and reduce anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, increase strength and balance and reduce the impact on joints during exercise. Aquatic exercise is a wonderful way to get back into a pool, with the safety of a therapeutic specialist, and get your body moving without the joint pain. EmpoweRT works with clients who have pools and partners with community aquatic spaces to provide these services.


4. Adaptive Yoga

Yoga has been called one of the best forms of exercise for older adults. Recreational therapy adapts yoga poses and routines for optimal challenge promoting seated and standing participation. Over time, yoga can help seniors improve their flexibility and balance, enhance their strength and boost their mood. More specifically, yoga for older adults can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become brittle or weak. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone can’t keep up with the decrease of bone mass and density that occurs with aging. Even if you have some physical limitations, yoga can help ease the aches and pains associated with aging. With slow, deliberate movements, and body/mind connection yoga can help in your overall health and well-being.


5. Nature Therapy & Outdoor Recreation

A research study, The Benefits of Nearby Nature in Cities for Older Adult, reported that older individuals with access to nearby nature showed increased participation in outdoor physical activities, improved mental health and cognitive function, and an increase in social interaction with those around them and their community. These benefits found through access to nature are key ingredients to our well-being as we age. Along with the physical benefits of time spent in nature, the restorative effects of nature support mental health and well-being. In older adults, studies show that physical activity in green spaces can be linked to better moods, decreased chance of depression, reduced stress levels, and improved cognitive function. Working with a CTRS in a therapeutic nature setting can aid in increasing mental health, improve physical health, and much more. EmpoweRT is committed to getting our clients of all ability levels outdoors as tolerated for a variety of recreational pursuits which include, but are not limited to, gardening, hand cycling, kayaking, and golf.


EmpoweRT can provide all of these recreational therapy interventions, and many more. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss recreational therapy opportunities for you.

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