Health Benefits of Recreation for Older Adults in Retirement

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“I stay as active as I can and push myself to do a little more to keep myself strong.  All the exercise classes, fun games and puzzles here are such a help – they keep us healthy” says Jeanette B., a resident at Sturgeon Creek II Retirement Residence in Manitoba.

Like Jeanette, many people already know that staying active in their 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?

How Therapeutic Recreation Benefits Seniors in Retirement

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

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

“Therapeutic recreation is more than participating in activities for enjoyment. It aims to help maintain or improve the physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual well-being of our residents by engaging in meaningful and personalized programs that are tailored to ones’ abilities, limitations, likes, and dislikes”, says Shalyne Dodd, Recreation Therapist at College Park retirement homes in Regina.

“In doing so, we can see improvements in many areas including motor function, depression, anxiety, stress, and social isolation.”

Some of the ways that Recreational Therapists support older adults in senior housing are:

  • Enhance physical ability through stimulating activities.
  • Maintenance of 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.

Recreational pursuits and activities don’t just keep people occupied. By attending organized programs like those offered at All Seniors Care communities, older adults can reconnect to and rediscover things they used to love doing.

Activities also provide a sense of purpose and have some very real health benefits.

How Staying Active Benefits Older Adults

Physical Strength & Mobility

Maintaining physical fitness is important for all older adults, and exercise is the best way to improve both strength & mobility.  It is also the best way to reduce the risk of falls.

Our Health and Wellness staff are experts at keeping seniors moving!  From sports like bocce ball, seated yoga or cardio drumming, to national events like our international pedalling travelogues, there are a variety of physical activities to choose from.  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.”

Social Connection

Encouraging retirees to stay active also means encouraging a healthy social life. A water aerobics class let’s seniors connect with like minded individuals; a walking group is a chance to catch up on exercise and the latest social news.

And having a strong network of friends and social support has been 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.

Positive Emotions

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

“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 Dodd.

Cognitive Vitality

During one of the bi-monthly Healthy Living seminars at Sturgeon Creek II, the Registered Nurse taught attendees about 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. For example, exercise 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 the Aylmer retirement residence, Chateau Symmes, seniors will be challenging their ability to follow direction, recall multiple steps, and get creative while learning how to make birdhouses.

While very different, these groups both counteract the negative impact of cognitive decline, instead promoting increased self-esteem and motivation. At the same time, they builds a sense of community, which is linked to increased vitality in the elderly.

All Seniors Care Health & Wellness Activities

To accommodate the different interests and abilities of our residents, the All Seniors Care Living 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 neighborhood. No matter what your interest each day has a variety of physical, social, or creative activities to choose from.

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 provided by our activity professionals, you’ll be on your feet more than ever before.

 

Writer  – Julianna McLeod

Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.

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