Recreational Therapy for Seniors: When Medicine Means Finding Healthy Ways to Have Fun

There are many people who are confused by the term “recreational therapy.” After all, recreation is something you do for fun, and therapy is used to address issues such as depression, anxiety, and the like. But what if there was a way to do both at the same time? Indeed, recreational therapy for seniors can help improve not only mental health, but also physical well-being, cognitive function, and more. Read on to learn more.

What Is Recreational Therapy?

Recreational therapy is about employing a variety of treatment modalities to improve physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. Part of this may involve coming to terms with new physical or social limitations (such as impaired speech after a stroke), or learning new leisure activities (such as abstract art instead of fine painting due to hand tremors). Functional intervention and education are also offered to the client—sometimes with the sole goal of helping them maintain the abilities they already have.

What Are Some Examples of Recreational Therapy for Seniors?

All of the above is well and good in theory, but what are some practical examples of recreational therapy? Just take a look below!


Table and card games are a time-honored 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[1. “Ten Games You Can Play to Boost Your Memory, March 13, 2015,],concentration, judgment, strategy, and teamwork.

Arts and Crafts

Despite arts and crafts’ association with kindergarteners and preschoolers, adults of all ages are getting back in the game. Knitting is once again “cool” among the teenage and twenties set, and older adults know full well it never went out of style. But crafts don’t have to be just about sewing. There’s drawing, painting, working with clay—the options are endless. Having a creative outlet can decrease stress[2. “How creativity can help reduce stress,” April 24, 2015], as well as increase and maintain manual dexterity. And any quilter can tell you the social benefits of being part of a quilting bee!

Current Events

When we’re younger, we might read newspapers, magazines, online journals, and similar items to learn what’s going on in the world. But ironically, as we grow older, the methods we used to stay informed and involved may no longer be open to us. Arthritis in the hands can make it hard to turn pages, and poor eyesight can make reading print difficult. Discussing current events with a recreational therapist (who reads the paper or article out loud) is the perfect remedy. This is often done in a group setting, where the patient can work on their socialization skills in addition to the thought processing such activity requires.


One of the most exciting new developments in recreational therapy today concerns technology—specifically teaching seniors to use the Internet. Since learning these skills involves acquiring new thought processes (older adults were born before internet use was commonplace), it’s an excellent way to boost cognitive function and memory. Online games are another example of activities that support this. It’s also a great way for the homebound (or people with mobility issues) to stay connected to families and friends. Way to increase your powers of socialization, Player One!

Find Recreational Therapy for Seniors

If you or a loved one is considering recreational therapy for seniors, it’s important to invest in a quality program. Even if the senior is living at home, they should be able to attend a day program where they can receive the benefits of this unique therapy. One example is the PACE program provided by IOA. Each participant receives a unique plan of care that is customized to their individual needs. Don’t wait any longer for your loved one to reap the rewards of recreational therapy—start inquiring about it today!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

Institute on Aging

Institute on Aging

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