Social engagement and activities are included in PACE, but it’s more than playing games. Recreation therapy can be a powerful tool to help older adults with their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
“It’s important to distinguish recreation therapy and general recreation,” says Dr. Ann Wells
, InnovAge’s Chief Medical Officer. “Recreation therapy
is designed to help with basic motor functioning, build confidence, and reduce stress and anxiety. It’s a required element of each PACE program,” explains Wells.
Morris Dunn, a recreation therapy assistant at InnovAge’s center in Richmond, Virginia
, agrees. “People can be in pain or depressed. These games provide a distraction from that along with other mental and physical rewards. No matter their age or ability, participants are encouraged to be present, enjoy each other’s company, and get the most out of their PACE experience.”
Activities offered through InnovAge PACE vary from center to center. They range from bingo and karaoke to interactive Wii games, group outings, woodworking, and crafts. Each center also offers group exercise classes such as Zumba and restorative yoga.
One of the games PACE participants at the Richmond center enjoy is called Name 10. “We did it with the periodic table,” explains Dunn. “Participants named elements such as oxygen, sodium, and zinc. We also played with ‘uncommon’ colors. So, instead of green, they said lime, apple, and chartreuse. They not only amazed me by what they came up with, they amazed themselves!”
Another game is called Name that Price. Food donated to the center is used to set up a “grocery store.” Participants have to guess the correct current prices. Dunn adds, “It’s a great game because participants will chat about what prices used to be, then have to think about how prices have changed based on today’s economy. They play off of each other’s answers, so they also really have to listen to what others are saying.”
“We might start with a few people playing games, but then other participants will see how much fun they are having and want to join in,” he says. “I love watching this ripple effect. It really creates this sense of community at the center and a safe place for participants to socialize, laugh, and regain confidence in their abilities. It’s incredibly rewarding for everyone.”