Why doing activities you enjoy can boost your mind, body and mood

February is National Therapeutic Recreation Month in Canada and internationally.

As a profession, Therapeutic Recreation (TR) recognizes that leisure, recreation and play are key components of an individual’s quality of life and in optimizing their health, according to University of Waterloo. These activities may become even more important for the well-being of older adults during their retirement years. But health conditions that may limit a person’s physical, cognitive, emotional or social abilities can make it more difficult to access and participate in meaningful recreation and leisure activities.

The purpose of TR is to enable all individuals—particularly those with physical, cognitive, emotional or social limitations—to enjoy quality of life and better health through meaningful participation in recreation and leisure, according to Therapeutic Recreation Ontario. TR focuses on finding leisure activities that seniors can benefit from and participate in safely, regardless of their health, according to Stenberg College in British Columbia.

Benefits for physical, cognitive and emotional health

Senior Man Paddling CanoeResearch has shown that retirees with a variety of health and age-related conditions benefit in many ways from therapeutic recreation services. Falls are the cause of more than 90% of hip fractures and 60% of head injuries in older adults, according to the BC Care Providers Association, and recreation therapy programs improve the mobility of older adults, which can help reduce the risk of falls and injuries.

Older adults who participated in therapeutic exercise programs had improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, increased flexibility and strength, and better ambulatory skills, according to Binghamton University. Activities that involve light exercise, such as going for walks, swimming, or completing seated chair exercises, can have a positive effect on conditions such as hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes and various mental illnesses, says Sternberg College.

Studies have shown that recreation therapy programs also reduced loneliness and increased meaningful bonds with others, decreased levels of depression, and improved morale and life satisfaction, says Binghamton. Recreation therapy programs also lead to improvements in mental acuity, self-esteem and communication in retirees, says the BC Care Providers Association.

Therapeutic Recreation in practice

Some popular recreation therapy activities for older adults include bridge and other card games, volunteering, outings, music, creative pursuits like painting, daily walks or a fitness program designed specifically for older adults, and intergenerational programming.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a wide variety of recreation programs and activities that take place on-site in our retirement communities, including our popular Rhythm ‘n’ Moves exercise class, Java Music Club and H.O.P.E. volunteerism program. Learn more about our programs, outings and socials, or download an example activity calendar, here.