By Cydney Kaplan, Owner of Independent Living Concierge
Recreational therapists work with clients to restore motor, social and cognitive functioning, build confidence, develop coping skills, and integrate past interests back into their lives. Recreational therapy is often used in rehabilitation settings, long term care, veterans hospitals, and outdoor programming. Examples of recreational therapy modalities include creative arts (e.g., crafts, music, dance, drama), sports, outdoor adventure programming (e.g., high / low ropes courses, swimming, hiking) outings, and leisure education and resources. These programs help maintain or improve a client’s physical and emotional well-being. Therapeutic recreation is based upon a holistic framework that focuses on all aspects of improving an individual’s health and functioning. By providing structured and unstructured therapy-driven services. Therapeutic recreation is used for improving physical abilities, building confidence and promoting greater self-reliance.
Recreational therapy is often used hand in hand with physical therapy and occupational therapy. All therapies work together to achieve the same goal, but use different means to get there. For example, a senior who just suffered from a stroke. The senior would go to physical therapy to strengthen their muscles that have atrophied from the stroke by lifting weights or walking. The senior would also go to occupational therapy to learn how to comb their hair or brush their teeth. And lastly, the senior would go to recreational therapy to go bowling, using an adaptive bowling ball.
In working with seniors specifically in recreational therapy, it provides an avenue to pursue new leisure skills or perhaps re-new interest in old leisure skills that they thought they couldn’t do anymore. For example, a senior who used to love to do crafts but thinks s/he can no longer do them because of a lack eyesight, the craft can be scarf painting. The senior paints directly on the scarf and even if the paint runs a bit, its ok for this activity. The senior is newly engaged in in something they loved from years before. By using a pastime a senior enjoyed the activity or game can be adapted so they can enjoy it again.
Recreational therapy in seniors is especially important because they can suffer from loneliness, depression, and anxiety, which can lead to loss of physical functioning and can contribute to early death. Recreational therapy provides an avenue for a senior to renew, maintain, and utilize important mental and physical skills, thereby prolonging overall health.
Recreational therapy adapts activities to the clients specific needs to see results. For example, when working with seniors who are unable to express themselves or aphasic (partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease) and who are paralyzed on half the body, hemiplegic (Paralysis affecting only one side of the body), the activity would be adapted to be a quieter, slower, and more controlled one; talking rather than writing activities that can be done with one hand are examples of this. On the contrary, while working with a senior without cognitive and / or physical deficits, that same activity may not need to be adapted at all.
One example of working with groups in recreational therapy is in an outing setting, going fishing. This outing is more then just going fishing, the clients are being taught skills that are good for their emotional, social, and physical well-being. For example, tying the line and baiting the hook works with eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Something most people take for granted is that these tasks can be very challenging and very rewarding at the same time. Casting or throwing the bait into the water uses gross motor skills and upper arm strength. Fishing can also enhance cognitive skills, creativity and socialization. A fishing trip helps clients relax in a different environment away from the hospital / rehab / assisted living, be outdoors, learn a new skill, and see new scenery. This is a great example of recreational therapy providing the recreational resources and opportunities to re-integrate into the community. All of these benefits are cost-effective, holistic, educational and most importantly…fun!