How Recreational Therapy Can Help Seniors Stay Active and Engaged

If you’re a senior whose care provider has mentioned recreational therapy, you might want to know what to expect ahead of your appointment. In this article, we’ll talk about what recreational therapy is, then cover some of its many benefits. Read on to learn more.

What is Recreational Therapy?

Practically from the time we are born, we learn the value and importance of play. Playing helps lift our spirits and can contribute to quicker healing and a better quality of life. Recreational therapy is a way to harness a love of activities for the betterment of seniors with illnesses or disabilities. 


With recreational therapy, you will feel better (physically and mentally) and have fun doing it. The goal of recreational therapy is to improve or maintain your social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and/or cognitive health with activities. 


Here are some of the activities that a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) may encourage you to participate in:

  • Aquatic activities
  • Arts and crafts
  • Animal therapy
  • Cooking classes
  • Community field trips
  • Creative writing
  • Dance and movement
  • Drama
  • Exercise
  • Games
  • Gardening
  • Music
  • Sports 
  • Video games


This can be done in a group setting or on a more personal basis, although small group settings are more likely to encourage social interaction than a more one-on-one setting would. 


These activities, when properly harnessed by a recreation specialist, can help with the following:

  • Building confidence
  • Encouraging socialization
  • Improving the ability to reason
  • Recovering motor function
  • Reducing stress, anxiety, or depression

Benefits of Recreational Therapy

There are several benefits of recreational therapy, many of which are highlighted below. 

Making friends and having fun

As you age, you experience a lot of loss, especially if you are also battling illness. It can be tempting to withdraw and become isolated, but increased social isolation has been connected to cognitive decline. For your own cognitive health, it’s important to keep building positive relationships with the people around you.

Fortunately, with recreational therapy, you can make friends and have fun while you do it!

Boost your cognition

A decline in cognition is associated with dementia, but brain training games and activities have been proven to lower dementia risk by up to 29%. Speed-of-processing training has been proven especially effective in lowering dementia risk.

Here are some examples of the types of games/activities that boost processing speed:

  • Bop It or Simon 
  • Boggle or Uno
  • Crosswords, chess, Sudoku
  • Racing Games
  • Sports
  • Video games (Big Brain Academy, Rock Band, and dance games)

Experience more positive emotions

When paired with positive psychology, recreational therapy can create a huge boost to your mood, helping you become more grateful for the beauty you see around you every day. These positive feelings will trickle over to every area of your life, making you feel more fulfilled and whole. It may also help with depression and other mood disorders!

Become more healthy

With recreational therapy exercises, you move more and are able to improve your mobility, strength, flexibility, and balance. All of these contribute to better health for you and a lower risk that you’ll develop a dangerous condition later on.

Here are some recreational therapy activities that can help you stay active:

  • Aerobics
  • Dance
  • Exercise
  • Sports
  • Swimming
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • And more

Lower stress levels

Physical activity has an effect on your stress levels as well – so participating in recreational therapy can help you manage stress better and keep it at bay, releasing feel-good emotions for your betterment and health. 

Thrive on your Independence

Many seniors are keenly aware that their independence – something they once took for granted – becomes a commodity as they age. One of the greatest fears of seniors is the fear of losing their independence, and it’s something to avoid at all costs. If you can relate to this, you’ll be happy to know that, by keeping yourself healthy and happy with recreational therapy, you can also hold onto your independence. 

Better quality of – and longer – life

Taken all together, the above benefits result in a better quality of life. It makes sense: lowered stress, better health, and positive interactions with friends can help you feel like your life still has a lot of meaning. Engaging in recreational therapy can function as a sort of lifeline, preventing you from losing your independence due to illness or disability. 


In fact, studies have shown that you can live longer if you participate in recreational therapy!

If you’d like to start enjoying all the benefits recreational therapy has to offer, contact us. We’d love to hear from you!  

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