Recreational therapy for seniors has many benefits, and there are so many ways to include the patient’s unique interests. The job of the recreational therapist is to assist the patient with activities that will bring them vibrancy and improved health, and equine therapy has been shown to offer many benefits for seniors beyond recreation.

Recreational therapy for seniors

There have been many studies showing the effects of recreational therapy for seniors. Recreational therapy uses recreational activities to improve a patient’s health and well-being. Sometimes the benefits are in improved mental situation, but they can extend very far to enhanced cognitive function and improved physical health. 

What is equine therapy?

The use of horses in a therapeutic situation has been around for a long time. In conjunction with a recreational therapy model, it can greatly increase a patient’s condition in many ways. Riding a horse can improve balance and control, and dealing with horses can decrease loneliness and depression as well as increase self-confidence and sociability. These benefits can influence improved physical symptoms, such as lowered blood pressure and levels of stress.

What do patients actually do with the horses? They feed them, stroke their manes, or just watch them. They can talk to them as well, as many patients choose to do.

Equine therapy brings about amazing results, especially for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. They seem comfortable interacting with the horses, and being in contact with them seems to bring back memories. Alzheimer’s patients very much live in the present, and this help access the past and bring it into their present.

Patients can work with horses in a group, or one on one; both are beneficial in different ways. One on one can help with a person internally, to access deep memories and work on personal issues, while a group setting promotes better social functioning. Both can improve a patient’s physical and mental health.

Working with animals seems to encourage a kind of internal peace for the patient that allows all of this progress to take place.

How does it all work?

This is not the type of therapy that can be brought to someone’s house, so organization is an important part of the process. There are mobile equine therapy services, where trained facilitators, therapists who are trained in mental health and learning with an equine specialty  bring horses trained specifically for this purpose to a facility and patients can utilize the service. Non-mobile services can be accessed by patients as well, if they are in good enough physical health to get there. A facility may send a group of patients there for outpatient therapy once a week or more. And patients living at home can go to these meetings as part of a senior care center or on his own.

Hudson View Rehab offers a range of recreation activities for seniors to improve physical and mental health for our patients.

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