Recreational therapy is necessary tool for seniors and aides at InnovAge LIFE

Recreational Therapy

When we hear the phrase “physical therapy” in regards to patients, young and old, we instantly visualize the exercises developed in order to strengthen and heal ones’ muscles and bones. Recreational Therapy, however, also cuts deeply in its care of older adults, and toward the maintenance of their physical and mental health and well-being. Rather than thinking of Recreational Therapy as mere games or fun activities, the necessity of creating physical and cognitive exercises to perform and goals for older patients to meet is crucial.

Recreational Therapy is about creating a balm for the spirit and soul of the patient; to build confidence, and reduce stress. And since InnovAge Pennsylvania’s modern senior care LIFE program (Living Independence for the Elderly) — dedicated to aiding seniors to maintain the familiarity of home with a sense of community and dignity — is meant to provide seniors 365-degree-care, Recreational Therapy is one more necessary tool in recovery and re-discovery.

“We promote the idea of fun, having a positive mindset as well as having purpose,” said Aginah Shaw, InnovAge’s Allegheny Center Supervisor and Recreational Therapist. “We want our people to have something to look forward to as part of an overall prescription for good health. We’re using the things that you enjoy as part of your therapeutic modality.”

Recreational Therapy acts physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually in its aid to everything from basic motor functioning, confidence building, pain management and stress reduction.

“We take our cues from our participants and plan everything with them,” said Shaw of listening intently to everything their clients’ need. “If horticulture helps them to feel better, and better about themselves, we do that in our garden. If they enjoy working in clay, going out to restaurants, yoga classes — we make that happen.”

A “very vocal” Participant Council is part of the InnovAge Recreational Therapy experience and have requested everything from X-Box bowling, gardening and woodworking tools, cooking groups and walking programs.

“They tell us what they want, and makes them feel good about themselves and we wrap their care around those activities they most enjoy. “They want to get out. They want a say in everything they do – we plan with them, not for them, and share our energy with them to make it all happen,” said Shaw. “Our programs are successful because of the feedback they gave us in order to highlight their strengths.”

Along with InnovAge’s staff, Shaw works to welcome participants to their local facility and into its onsite Wellness Center, where physical and occupational therapists work to create each individual’s care plan.

Recreational Therapy

“You can ride bikes there, or if you’ve just had a knee or hip replacement, do more prescriptive exercise,” she said.

In keeping with InnovAge’s community program and in-home care focus, working with seniors where they live involves everything from aiding in home re-design to accommodate and setting up exercise equipment, assistance in home care and more.

“We have community nurses taking care of patients in the home in an ongoing basis,” added Shaw.

And in her discussion of spiritual Recreational Therapy, Shaw stretches the definition of  “spiritual” to include everything and anything that aids in the maintenance of memories.

“Singing familiar songs of their youth or looking at old photos or journaling they may have done in the past – all of these can be incorporated into their therapy. It’s about making the patients feel the best and be at their best, cultivating what they recall and who they want to be now. If we can have laughter and be a safe haven for people to socialize and concentrate on the positive, InnovAge has done its job — of giving these people something to look forward to.”

Sponsored content produced in partnership with InnovAge