RRC program teaches students to help seniors
DANIELLE DOIRON, SPORTS & LIFESTYLE EDITOR
When it comes to wellness, age is only a number.
Last year, Statistics Canada predicted about one in four Canadians will be 65 or older by 2030, while younger age groups will shrink.
“As we get older, we don’t change as people,” said Julie Dubuc. “We all have the same basic needs: the same need to feel secure in our environments, to have a predictable future, to have family and friends that love us and care about us, to have those challenging activities where we can experience self-growth and where we can actually explore our potential.”
Dubuc instructs RRC’s therapeutic recreation facilitator for older adults program at NDC. She teaches her students to help seniors fulfill those basic needs. Students in the nine-month program learn to design and host activities specifically for older people visiting recreation centres or living in assisted living facilities, care homes and extended hospital care. These activities are meant to help improve their overall quality of life. The program operates on a social health model, something Dubuc said is a relatively new concept.
“We’ve never really recognized, until the last 50 years, that recreation can enhance your quality of life,” she said. “We’ve just kind of taken it for granted, and we had this attitude where leisure was not good time. You want to keep people busy so they don’t get themselves into trouble.
“We realized recreation and leisure are absolutely necessary for recharging ourselves. It’s like sleep. We need to have leisure experiences to benefit us and to go out and do all the other things we need to get done.”
Shannon Gaulke said she’s seen the benefits of recreation firsthand. Gaulke graduated from the program in May 2014 and now works as a health and wellness director at Riverwood Square. She said she plans events for residents at the retirement community.
“The most rewarding part of my job is when I know that I have made a connection or enhanced a resident’s life,” she said.
“Some seniors feel isolated and one of the biggest challenges is to gain the trust of our residents so that they feel comfortable enough to participate in our programs and events.
A simple reaction of a smile, seeing their legs or hands move during a program and seeing then being engaged in a positive way is so rewarding.”