Philosophy of Therapeutic Recreation

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When we observe the demographics of today¡¦s society, we notice that there is quite a change in the average age, as well as life expectancy. In 1993, the average life expectancy rose to an amazing 75.5 years, with women living an average of 79 years and men living an average of 72 years (Hawkins, 1996, p. 4). With this gradual rise in age, the idea of therapeutic recreation for the aging population has taken on a significant role. Therapeutic recreation uses recreation and leisure activities to meet the needs of people in order to improve their quality of life. These needs include social, physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual. The experience of engaging in recreation is perceived to have therapeutic benefits. Engaging in recreation can be characterized by feelings of mastery, achievement, exhilaration, acceptance, success, personal worth and pleasure. When one goes through a positive recreation experience there is an achievement of a goal or receiving positive feedback from others. All this contributes to a positive psychological state by increasing one¡¦s confidence and self-esteem and allows for personal growth and development, which are benefits to individuals. Aristotle agrees in the importance of achieving happiness through accomplishments by stating, ¡§Happiness is not something that can be achieved at a given point in time, after which nothing else remains but to bask in the state of psychological euphoria resulting from the accomplishment. Happiness, rather, involves a continuing activity¡¨ (Petraroja, p. 130). In recent years, there has been a greater focus on recreation therapy towards those with different dementias such as Alzheimer¡¦s, because the chance of developing this disease increases drastically with age. ¡§Alzheimer¡¦s has been diagnosed in 5% to 7% of older persons over the age of 65 and in 20% of those over the age of 80¡¨ (Hawkins, 1996, p.105). The symptoms of Alzheimer¡¦s includes gradual memory loss, decline in ability to perform tasks, impairment in judgment, disorientation, personality change, difficulty in learning, and loss of language skills. According to Aristotle, in order for one to live a happy and better quality of life, the mind and the body must remain healthy, as one relies on the other. In explaining the mind¡¦s dependence on the body, Aristotle observes:

The incapacity of old age is due to an affection not of the soul but of its
vehicle, as occurs in drunkenness or disease. Thus it is that in old age the
activity of mind or intellectual apprehension declines only through the
decay of some other inward part; mind itself is impassible (Aristotle, On the Soul, Bk I, ch. 4, 408b 22-25).
This is saying that as a person gets older, it is not the soul, but rather the body that leads to the incapacities one experiences. The idea of therapeutic recreation in the elderly is to keep the body and the mind active, and by doing this, the person will experience less incapacities, thus resulting in more pleasure, more independence, and a greater quality of life. In view of therapeutic recreation for people with dementia, there are many guidelines, factors, approaches, goals, and behaviors that must be considered. With any type of recreation for people with dementia, there are important goals that the recreation therapist should try to accomplish. ¡§Since people with dementia live most fully in the present moment, goals and expectations for groups should be focused on the present moment¡¨ (Bowlby, 1993). These goals include: „«To fill the day with positive experiences.

„«To promote social interaction.
„«To increase self esteem.
„«To normalize life style.
„«To minimize anxiety and mood swings.
„«To focus attention on activities.
„«To promote pleasure and enjoyment.
By achieving these goals, not only do people with dementia get a boost in physical and mental well-being, they experience many other benefits such as an increased feeling of usefulness...
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