Goodbye Snakes and Ladders; hello chair dancing
Changing demographics lead to the rise of specialized programs in seniors' homes
Saturday, Apr 19, 2014 06:00 am
Paintbrush in hand, David Coutts meticulously fills in the outline of an Easter egg in light blue.
His friend Jackson, 76 years his junior, points out where the 81-year-old’s paintbrush went astray on the page. Jackson holds up his own precisely coloured drawing as an example.
“He shows me how to keep in the lines when you’re painting,” chuckles Coutts.
Coutts says he tries to attend the tiny tots program at Citadel Mews West as often he can. The program brings preschoolers from the on-site YMCA to partake in an activity with the senior residents, such as crafts and reading.
Intergenerational programs have been one of the mainstays in seniors’ recreation activities for years, as have bingo, gardening, exercise classes, live entertainment and car rides through the country, says Carol Ewanchuk, recreation therapist at Youville Home.
But recreation in seniors’ facilities has changed substantially over the last 20 years, she notes.
“The biggest change in our programs is the level of care that our residents require. Our programs are more adapted to fit their needs and because they are more adapted, some programs require more staff.”
Three-day trips to Camp He Ho Ha in Parkland County were popular with seniors’ home residents in the 1990s, explains Ewanchuk. Days would be filled with boat rides, fishing and berry picking.
“Now it’s hard to find residents that can go for the full day,” she says. “The residents (used to) actually pick the berries, but now we go on a drive and we get samples of the berries to eat.”
People are living in their homes for longer, notes Ewanchuk as a reason for the changing demographic in seniors’ living facilities today. Nursing homes also have different admission criteria than in the past.
“They need more hands-on care than what they used to,” she adds.
Lori Kary, recreation therapist and manager at Citadel Village, is in the process of totally revamping seniors’ activities.
Some will get a name that has more “modern flair” – such as Men’s Den, a weekly men’s group – while others will be further adapted to residents’ interests and abilities.
Snakes and Ladders, cribbage and bowling were popular seniors’ home activities in the early ’90s, she notes. Now the activities that are making waves are drumming circles, cooking classes and chair dancing (ribbon dancing while sitting in a chair).
“We strive to have really innovative recreation programming,” says Kary. “We try to make it more interesting.”
Kary says she wants to integrate iPad use into more activities, especially for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A new project she is working on involves creating a digital book of photos and reminders of a person’s life using an iPad. It will be used as part of reminiscence therapy, in which a person with dementia reflects on the collection of their past life events when they become distressed or agitated.
Kary is also exploring adding in aromatherapy, music therapy and a Snoezelen room to the recreation roster. The latter is a multi-sensory stimulation environment currently being used with individuals who are intellectually disabled, suffer from dementia or a brain injury.
“It’s being used in schools for children with autism but research shows it is good for seniors too,” says Kary. “There could be lava lamps, aromatherapy, different lighting, comfy chairs and weighted blankets.”
Kary recognizes that recreation programs provide a different experience for different residents, depending on whether they are independent or require assisted-living support, but the goal is the same – to keep people involved and social.
“A lot of us have trouble keeping awake during the day,” says Youville Home resident Rene Benoiton, 84.
“It wakes you up and gives you something to look forward to.”