Apply recreational therapy to help improve well-being of seniors | Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News | Loop News

Recreational therapy or therapeutic recreation has been used for decades to create life-changing opportunities for older adults.

Master certified health coach and gerontologist, Dr Sharon McKenzie, recently spoke about the importance of recreational therapy and how its role in improving the overall well-being of seniors recovering from or living with disease, injury or general disabilities.

Dr McKenzie stated that recreational therapists use recreational/therapeutic activities to serve as a medium to help achieve desired outcomes in the physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional health.

This type of therapy works as a therapeutic intervention and requires the use of different techniques and modalities that are tailored to achieve desired expectations. These include but are not limited to the use of word puzzles, cooking, sports activities, art and craft, dancing, exercise and other engaging leisure activities to promote mobility, independence, and overall wellness.

“Recreational therapy is a profession where we use (therapeutic) and (recreational) activities to be able to help individuals with goals they’re trying to achieve such as functional health or psychological issues as opposed to doing diversional activities,” Dr McKenzie said.

She made the statements during “Golden Conversations”, an online discussion forum hosted bi-monthly targeting senior citizens by the social entrepreneur group, Golden Designs.

A key point mentioned by Dr McKenzie is learning about the individual’s past experiences and interests and then finding a familiar activity that will enhance memory, especially for individuals diagnosed with dementia.

“These (recreational therapy modalities) are ways that we can empower persons because a lot of times, with dementia and Alzheimer’s, the individual is recognizing that they are losing their memory and so, you want to make sure these are positive experiences they are having,” said Dr. McKenzie.

She noted that the community at large can also play an integral role in developing therapeutic recreational strategies that can help senior citizens.

“There needs to be education in terms of activities that families and individuals can do, and even the young people, programmes with older people to enhance their independence,” she added.

The gerontologist suggests that when there is adequate interaction with seniors to help improve their physical, social, or mental health, their self-esteem increases. In turn, they become more confident in conducting tasks that add to their quality of life.

Dr McKenzie called for more emphasis to be placed on increasing awareness about the role of recreational therapists (RTs) and how they can help enhance elders’ lifestyles. She also appealed for a closer working relationship between social workers and recreational therapists.

Currently, there are no formal Recreational Therapy programmes in Jamaica though there are organisations that do cater to senior citizens, such as the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre, the National Council for Senior Citizens as well as the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP). However, not many people are aiming to become certified in this field of practice.

Dr McKenzie said that although the majority of therapeutic recreation is done in rehabilitation centres, psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes, younger generations who live with senior loved ones may introduce this type of approach at home which will improve how their relatives function daily and live life fully.