Recreational therapy, in short, is treatment that is ultimately designed to restore functioning, independence, health, well-being in individuals. Recreational therapy is often used among the aged population to improve quality of life, and dance is a vital component in any recreational therapy program. Dance encourages physical movement, which can increase flexibility and strength, which in turns improves independence and relieves pain. It requires coordination and cognitive function, which is challenging and rewarding for residents. Most importantly, residents often connect with music in ways that are deeper than we recognize or understand; music brings back old memories and feelings that they may have forgotten they had and allows them to exist there momentarily.
Incorporating Dance into Your Recreational Therapy Program
There are multiple ways to incorporate dance into your recreational program:
- Schedule live music once a month, taking special care to book musicians who provide music that would be familiar to residents and something they would enjoy dancing to. Ensure a dance floor is available and invite residents onto the floor with you to dance, even if they’re wheelchair bound.
- Teach residents new dance moves by playing a game of Simon Says. Seat residents in a circle and ask one resident to demonstrate a dance move – it can be as serious or as silly as they choose. Then ask the remaining residents to imitate the dance move. Continue to change out Simons and dance moves to keep everybody involved and engaged.
- Consider modified dance programs available for nursing home residents with limited mobility. These programs can assist your life enrichment leaders in providing dance activities that are challenging but achievable for the ability levels in your group, including those who are wheelchair bound.
- Ask residents to teach other residents. Every facility is populated by a group of residents with unique and special talents. Asking residents to share that talent with the group can improve well-being and self-esteem for the presenter and engagement and quality of life for the group as a whole. Some residents may be able to play accordion or piano for the group while others may be able to demonstrate the jitterbug or sing.
Forms of Recreational Therapy
Recreational therapy isn’t limited to dance; incorporation of music, art, sports, and social events can make your program successful. Activities such as fishing, painting, arts & crafts, pie socials, and reminiscing can provide significant physical, mental, and emotional well-being for the group. Reaching out to local groups for volunteer assistance can provide the most enriching program as the community will have many talents and resources to share. Some great examples of ways the community can contribute to your program include:
- School students can do a performance of each seasonal concert at the facility to provide live music
- Students in local dance and gymnastic classes can perform for residents and teach them simple moves
- Local artists can teach an art class or provide assistance with arts & crafts
- Local churches can provide church services and daily or weekly devotion times
- Greenhouse owners or arborists can assist residents in planting raised gardens and teach about care for certain plants
The overall goal for many residents is to return home again, and recreational therapy is a vital component in reach their personal goals.