Back in June, I took up colouring. Yes, colouring—yes, I’m twenty-four, but interestingly, instead of making fun of me, my friends were intrigued and in the span of five days, three of them picked up pencil crayons or markers with me, and also began to enjoy the calming effects of going back to childhood, if you will, and colouring, purely for the purpose of fun.
This is the intent of therapeutic recreation: to de-stress by engaging the mind and body in another task that is meaningful and fun for the participant, but can have very positive impact on their psychological wellbeing. Therapeutic recreation facilitators, or recreation therapists, are often found in children’s hospitals (called Child Life Specialists/Therapists or “play therapists”), rehabilitation facilities, and seniors’ housing, personal care/nursing homes, or assisted living complexes. These men and women encourage individuals to participate in social activities with others living or receiving treatment in their community, and use or learn skills important to maintaining social and emotional wellbeing—as well as cognitive and physical wellbeing depending on the activities.
During my teen years I spent a few years volunteering in a personal care home therapeutic recreation program once a week. Through my time there, we had sing-alongs, carpet bowling, baking, special guests, puzzles and games, ring toss games we could take to resident’s rooms, went on walks in the courtyard, did puzzles, and occasionally simply went to visit those who needed some company. While these activities are often more suited to older participants, individuals of all ages, especially those living in supportive care environments or who are hospitalized for a long time, can benefit from therapeutic recreation. While in university, I did a practicum for my Physical Activity and Aging class with a different group of seniors, who engaged in more physical types of activities—including morning aerobics, ladder golf, and bocce! Ladder golf on Tuesdays was always followed by afternoon tea, another chance for the tenants of the building to enjoy one another’s company. By having opportunities for these activities, individuals will have a reduced risk of depression and anxiety caused by social isolation, and also develop or maintain better movement skills to prevent falls—among many other benefits associated with learning new tasks, which leads to brain development… yes, even for the older adults I have worked with!
This week is Therapeutic Recreation Awareness Week! And, like I discovered when I re-engaged in colouring, sometimes we all need a little help to figure out how to let loose and de-stress through having fun! From sports to writing, to crafting, walking, or singing, engaging in recreational activities allows us to get more out of our “free time” than just watching TV, and gives our minds a break from thinking about the “necessities” of life. Let us know what you do for fun in the comments!