Over the past week, the same theme seems to be popping up in conversations with others… connection! When it comes to making a difference in the lives of the aging seniors I work with, connection is key!

I read somewhere once that seniors put more value on companionship than practical assistance. This stuck with me, not because it surprised me but because I could see why.

We lose our relationships as we age and when we become more isolated due to age related challenges, injury, or disease, maintaining the connection we value in our lives can sometimes become almost impossible.  

Working as a Recreation Therapist I have learned that meaningful connections can come in all shapes and sizes. Whether I have developed a friendship with a client over an extended period of time, sharing inside jokes, deep conversation and support for one another, or just making a quick stop in the care facility hallway to say hello to an acquaintance, give a quick smile, and a genuine compliment. Both are meaningful and both make a difference to that person.

Meaningful connections are fundamental to what we do as Recreation Therapists and we have learned what it takes to ensure we cultivate those connections with all the people we work with. We do this by way of:

·         Listening (not just to respond, but to understand)

·         Empathy

·         Compassion

·         Analyzing body language and behaviours to help us read between the lines and respond to people appropriately

·         Genuinely caring about the welfare of those we work with

·         Discovering each person’s true interests, needs, strengths and life experiences

·         Giving our time (whether 2 minutes or 2 hours) to that person without distraction or the need to be somewhere else

There are many ways to develop and nurture meaningful connections. One thing that I personally would add to the list is HUGS! In my opinion, hugs are fantastic! They make one feel safe, warm, loved, and when shared for long enough, apparently, release feel good hormones in the brain. I feel that hugs aren’t shared enough and for those aging seniors who are isolated and have an extremely small or non-existent social circle, barely get a chance to enjoy physical contact with others. Most often the reactions I receive are full of smiles, surprise and joy in the interaction. A wonderful shared moment!

If you plan to start giving out more hugs, be sure at ask permission first. Of course, it is always important to ask before entering someone’s personal space

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