The Benefits Of Recreational Therapy And Why It Works

Old man with dogs

Recreational therapy is used to enhance a senior’s mental and physical well being. Let’s take a look at some types of recreational therapy and see why these therapies work.

Types of recreational therapy

Music therapy

Listening to music helps to reduce stress and even to alleviate pain. From drum circles, sing-alongs, and music performances, music is a great way to get those endorphins (happy hormones) flowing through your body.

Pet therapy

Regular interaction with animals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in older adults. Researchers found that pet therapy (petting a dog, holding a cat or watching a bird) can brighten up the mood of a lonely senior. Having pets around allows you to bond with animals without relying on any language.


The sense of smell is a powerful link to memories, and positive smells—such as lavender and peppermint—can help create a peaceful environment. This type of therapy is particularly calming for seniors with dementia.

Horticulture therapy

A trip to the outdoors is a great mood booster. In addition to gentle exposure to sunlight, being outdoors is a sure way to get some exercise.

Art therapy

Art therapy can involve paint, craft, sculpt, and sketching. As well as the satisfaction gained from creating something, seniors also put their fine motor skills to work.

Table games and card games

These are a good way for older adults to increase cognitive and social skills. Past generations were much more involved than us in games such as Mahjong, bridge, cribbage, and more. Through these games, patients work on skills involving memory, concentration, judgment, strategy, and teamwork.

Why recreational therapy works

Here are three reasons why recreational therapy works:

  1. It uses skills that you already have. Sometimes seniors give up hobbies because they think they can’t do them anymore. Weak eyesight might interfere with a senior’s ability to knit or scrapbook. But even if seniors have lost some dexterity, their skills can be channeled in a different direction. Instead of knitting, they can take up scarf painting.
  2. It helps combats loneliness and depression. By remaining active seniors can maintain their physical and mental skills, which can boost his or her health and overall sense of well being. This keeps loneliness and depression at bay. Dementia patients can become stressed when they are unable to communicate with people or are unable to express their ideas or feelings. Recreational therapy can also encourage seniors who have aphasia and other verbal limitations to interact in ways that aren’t limited to speech.
  3. Relieves stress. Spending time doing something you enjoy releases endorphins. Endorphins have a calming effect and reduce levels of stress. This is especially good for patients who suffer from dementia.

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