Connective. Lively. Purposeful. Meaningful. These are some of the words that may come to mind when thinking of therapeutic recreation. For the team at St. John’s Home, recreation and social engagement are extremely important aspects for human growth and well-being, not only among elders, but for all of those with whom they connect. “Without opportunities to connect with others, or with our own identity, we are less whole as a person,” explains Tracy Koflanovich.
Whether for concerts and picnics or parties and outings, chances are the therapeutic recreation staff is behind the scenes implementing these stimulating opportunities. “By providing a variety of structured and diversional activities, we help maintain and hopefully, improve their entire well-being,” states AmySue Ras.
Even though activities are scheduled daily for elders, it is not always easy to encourage residents to attend. According to Ed Keegan, “slowing down the pace for someone and truly engaging with them” makes all the difference. “People often just need the right kind of encouragement. Not forcefulness, but encouragement, to gently help them take a step out and embrace what is going on.” Building relationships fosters a sense of trust, and our understanding of the needs of each elder will in turn improve their well-being.
The ability to live a meaningful life is a vital part of what the therapeutic recreation staff strives to do every day. “We work closely with the staff to educate them on what meaningful life is, what it means for the staff, and help shahbazim develop the ability to determine what is meaningful to each elder,” explains Alicia Montalvo.
For Leslie Buzzell, therapeutic recreation is about the reward. “I love to see people benefit from fresh air, humor, music, an unexpected connection with a neighbor, and finding that they can participate in activities they thought only they could observe.”