Therapeutic Recreation: Helping You Stay Active and Engaged


“I didn’t recognize that physical activity could help improve brain function”, says Keith, a resident at Sturgeon Creek II Retirement Residence in Manitoba.

Keith is attending a Healthy Living seminar presented by a Registered Nurse.  The monthly talks – organized by the ASC Health and Wellness staff – are an opportunity for seniors to learn about a diversity of health topics.

Like Keith, many people already know that staying active in your autumn years offers a variety of health benefits – improved balance, reduced chronic pain, and even faster recovery time after an illness or injury. But did you know that active living also helps improve brain health?  Or that the connections you make with others and the relationships you build also have a major impact on your overall wellness?

Read on to find out why staying active helps seniors improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Recreation Therapy Month

February is the month to celebrate these dedicated individuals who help seniors realize the highest possible quality of life – while having fun!

Also known as Therapeutic Recreation, Recreation Therapy professionals recognize that leisure, recreation, and play are integral components to well-being.

They use leisure time activities to improve a person’s social, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, and physical well-being.  Some of the ways that they support older adults in senior housing are:

  • Enhance physical ability through stimulating activities.
  • Help maintain the fine motor skills needed for activities of daily living.
  • Create activities and games that keep memories sharp.
  • Provide avenues for meeting new people and finding new connections.
  • Run programs that help seniors maintain their independence and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The bottom line is that recreation and activities don’t just keep people occupied, it also provides a sense of purpose. By attending programs, seniors in retirement living can reconnect to and rediscover things they used to love doing.

The FUNdamentals of Staying Active and Engaged

Staying active and engaged in retirement living centres hinges on providing a wide variety of activities.  To accommodate the different interests and abilities of our residents, our activity calendars are packed!

One day might focus on activities designed to boost creativity with a simple but meaningful art project. Another might focus on just having fun with a game or taking a short walk around the neighbourhood. No matter what your interest each day has a variety of physical, social, or creative activities to choose from.

The Benefits of Staying Active and Engaged

Social Connection

Encouraging retirees to stay active means encouraging a healthy social life.

Having a strong network of friends and social support is strongly linked to positive health outcomes.  In addition to lower blood pressure, stronger immunity, and reduced stress, having positive social connections can also lower the risk of cognitive decline and may even help people live longer.

Art workPositive Emotions

“Staying active and engaged in activities helps maintain and improve mental health with dopamine and serotonin released during the activity. The fact is that staying fit and healthy through being active can help ward off both bad mental health days and physical illness”, says Lisa Hildebrandt, Health & Wellness Director at Preston Park II in Saskatoon.

Engaging seniors in a meaningful activity generates positive feelings. Painting, music, and playing trivia games are some therapeutic recreation activities that can give seniors a sense of purpose.  They also elevate mood and emotional health by eliminating stress.

Cognitive Vitality

As a part of the Healthy Living seminar at Sturgeon Creek II, RN Michelle spoke last week on Brain Plasticity.  Using items from the residence’s sensory store to augment learning, she taught seniors that participating in a variety of both physical and cognitive exercises is important for brain health. It helps form new pathways within our neural system that reduce the impact of dementia.

Groups like our You Can Build it workshops help seniors form these new pathways while having fun.  This month at Chateau Symmes in Gatineau, Quebec, seniors will be challenging their ability to follow direction, recall multiple steps, and get creative while learning how to make birdhouses.

The group counteracts the negative impact of cognitive decline, instead promoting increased self-esteem and motivation. At the same time, it builds a sense of community, which is linked to  increased vitality in the elderly.

Physical Strength & Mobility

Maintaining physical fitness is important for all older adults, and exercise is the best way to improve both strength and mobility.

Sedentary seniors encounter a variety of health concerns, such as:

  • reduced muscle tone
  • unsteady gait and reduced balance
  • reduced circulation

Our Health and Wellness staff are experts at keeping seniors moving!  From games like bocce ball to seated yoga or tai chi, to national events like, Going the Distance: ASC international Bike Tour there are a variety of physical activities to choose from.

bowlingFor many seniors, physical exercise is also a social event: a water aerobics class gives the chance to connect with like minded individuals; a walking group provides the chance to catch up on exercise and the latest social news. Group exercise also provides accountability, helping you stay motivated and engaged.

Some seniors don’t participate in physical exercise because of barriers – both real and perceived.  Luckily, therapeutic recreation specialists can help!  Ask your Health and Wellness team for strategies to overcome barriers, like modifying an activity to make it accessible to you.

Because, as ParticipACTION says, “being active isn’t just a passing trend or fad – it’s a scientifically proven method to strengthen your body, mind and social connections.”

Let ASC Help

During Covid-19, when it’s safest for older adults to stay in their private suite, our recreation specialists have put on their creative thinking caps when designing activities for older adults.  Ideas such as taking virtual bike rides to places of interest, making full use of technologies such as Zoom and Skype to keep in touch with family and friends, or streaming a live concerts are some of the wonderful possibilities in our communities.

Our retirement residences are great places to live. If you want to learn more about life at one of our retirement residences, get in touch with us today and ask about residences near you. Moving into a retirement community can expand your social life and motivate you to get more active. With regular group exercise activities, plus the motivation of our ASC Seniors games, you’ll be on your feet more than ever before.

heartEditor and Writer:   Julianna McLeod

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