Published on May 05, 2014

Never too old to play

An important part of aging is never forgetting to play.

Mercy LIFE participants are reminded to do just that every day.

Maria OrtizTake for example, LIFE participant Maria Ortiz, 68. Ms. Ortiz was very shy and timid when she first started coming to the Mercy LIFE Day Center. But the staff there gradually got her involved in recreational activities such as cooking classes, gardening and arts and crafts.

“Each time she tries something new, it gives her so much confidence,” says Elizabeth Johnson, BS, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at Mercy LIFE. “And as her confidence builds, she becomes more outgoing and tries new activities that she never thought she could do.”

For example, in the arts and crafts activity programs that are offered at the LIFE Centers, Ms. Ortiz decorates wooden objects or paints ceramics.

“We took her bowling and it was the first time she’d ever been — she had the time of her life,” says Elizabeth. “She actually had tears of joy in her eyes.”

Ms. Ortiz says her health and well-being have improved considerably since she started coming to Mercy LIFE. “I love how the staff here treats participants — because there is so much love and support here, I feel like I can try anything,” says Ms. Ortiz, originally from Puerto Rico. “I love the one-on-one support. The people here are like my family.”

It’s so important for older adults like Ms. Ortiz to try new things and retain that sense of joy and wonder, says Elizabeth. That’s why Mercy LIFE offers recreation as a form of therapy, in addition to healthcare and assistance at home.

“So now thanks to LIFE, instead of sitting at home alone, older adults can come to one of our LIFE centers, meet new people and engage in different activities,” says Elizabeth. “It really helps them to stay healthy and improves their quality of life.”

Recreational therapy can help older adults meet and interact with others as well as boost their self-esteem.

“As you age, depression can take a toll,” says Elizabeth. “If you are happy, you are going to live longer and live better. That’s why we say you are never too old to play and never too old to have fun.”