National Therapeutic Recreation Week is celebrated the second week of every July. This week is set aside to highlight the importance of recreational programs for aiding individuals with various forms of illness or disability find life enrichment or and fulfillment.

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) describes recreational therapy as: a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery and well-being. In other words, recreational therapies are enjoyable leisure programs that have been adapted so that the participant can gain a benefit from them. Therapeutic programs have been shown to help reduce depression, improve social interaction and even increase cognitive abilities.

At Charles E. Smith Life Communities, we provide a wide variety of recreation therapy programs that enrich the creative spirit and stimulate the intellect. These programs are available to all residents and are tailored to each individual’s interests, abilities and preferences. Here are just some of the engaging recreational therapy programs we provide to support the health and well-being of the residents.

Interactive gaming.

Video games aren’t just for teenagers anymore. They’re an easy way to have fun, encourage social interaction and even improve focus. There are a number of games and systems that are also focused on encouraging and engaging different abilities, such as cognitive function or fine motor skills. One example of a game system that does this well is the Nintendo Wii. There are lots of virtual games, from tennis to golf and more, that provide a chance for team play as well as some physical activity. It’s a low-impact activity that can be quite entertaining for all involved.

Animal therapy.

Who doesn’t love the burst of joy that comes from bonding with a dog, cat or other animal? Animal therapy is very popular for individuals of all ages and abilities. It allows older adults to interact with furry friends, which helps reduce stress and loneliness, while not having to deal with the responsibilities of pet ownership. Animal therapy has been proven to help reduce depression, improve physical health and increase overall well-being. This is an excellent therapy for individuals whose abilities may not allow them to properly support an individual pet, but who still want the unconditional love and happiness that animals provide.

Brain puzzles.

Keeping the mind engaged through games specifically tailored to boost cognitive function are a great way to keep abilities sharp, encourage creativity and critical thinking, boost memory, improve visual and spatial processing and other benefits. These mental exercises can be word games, logic puzzles, hobbies like crosswords or Sudoku. They can also be any sort of activity that challenges your brain and interests you, like learning to play a new instrument.

Music therapy.

Music is a wonderful tool for helping reduce stress, increase happiness and joy and even increase memory recall. There have been many studies and anecdotal evidence that has shown the area of the brain that responds to music is one of the last areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Sometimes, listening to music can encourage interaction and even recalling memories with people that are in the later stages of dementia. Beyond its applications to memory loss, listening to music is an excellent way to reduce stress and increase happiness.

Art therapy.

Art therapy is an excellent way for seniors to help express themselves creatively. Creativity doesn’t have an age limit, and the act of creation helps broaden the mind, improve moods, exercise fine motor skills and give people the opportunity to make something just for the joy of it. Art therapies are also very beneficial for older adults who may have difficulty expressing themselves in normal ways. Individuals with dementia, for example, can use art therapy as a healthy place to express their emotions and feel heard.

Nature therapy.

Being in nature allows older individuals to soak up the fresh air, sunlight and the sheer joy that being outside brings. Leisure programs that engage two or more of the senses are some of the best therapies available and being outside stimulates all five of the senses. Plus, strides have shown that being in nature provides stress-busting properties. Getting outside is a great way to increase social interaction, boost physical activity and a variety of other benefits.

These are but a few of the recreational therapeutic programs available at CESLC. Our goal is always to provide a high quality of life and satisfaction for our residents. Providing a wide range of leisure programs that help improve the mind, body and soul is just one way we do that.

For more than a century, CESLC has been nurturing and caring for older adults in our Jewish community and beyond. Every day, we strive to bring new opportunities that build collaboration and community for our residents, while creating an engaging, inspiring and exciting lifestyle.