Purposeful play: How the Recreation team at Partners Community Health is elevating recreation therapy

Diane Ratanprasad (left) and Alana Ciolfi (right) assist a resident with a puzzle at Camilla Care.

Share This Post

Ballroom Dancing. Art Therapy. Reminiscing Bingo. Music Memories. These are just some of the many tailored programs the Recreation team at Partners Community Health (PCH) designs and delivers every single day for residents living at Camilla Care. 

At Camilla, a team of ten Recreation members use meaningful leisure to leave lasting impacts and elevate how residents are engaged on a daily basis. 

Alana Ciolfi, Lead of Wellness and Community Supports, and Diane Ratanprasad, Director of Programs, oversee the Recreation team and are working towards redefining therapeutic recreation in the home with evidence-based and purposeful programming. 

During Therapeutic Recreation Awareness Month, the importance of the Recreation team’s work for residents’ wellbeing and quality of life becomes even more apparent. 

The future of recreation therapy 

Joining the Recreation team at PCH in January, Ciolfi brings 14 years of community health care experience and has been helping older adults in progressive leadership roles through a variety of programs and services including adult day programs, assisted living, and overnight respite. 

In her new role at PCH, Ciolfi will be working with the Recreation team at Camilla to continue to elevate and enhance residents’ wellness and engagement through therapeutic recreation interventions, while also working in community program development and contributing collaboratively to design a new social model of care for PCH. 

Her vision for the future of recreation therapy – at Camilla and beyond – is an exciting one. 

For Ciolfi, one way to move PCH forward in its recreation therapy approach is to focus on elevating recreation and leisure in the home through interventions that are evidence-based and purposeful. 

Alana Ciolfi, Lead of Wellness and Community Supports.

“When we say purposeful, we mean doing a deep dive into a resident’s life story to understand their interests and help inform how we engage those individuals, particularly if they have declined physically or cognitively, or are struggling with mental health.” 

“Once we know this, we can engage residents in a very purposeful way, not only in recreation programs, but also in creating more dynamic and relaxing physical environments,” says Ciolfi. 

Through these purposeful and evidence-based interventions, Ciolfi also hopes to challenge the misconceptions surrounding recreation therapy. 

“There can be a perception in society that leisure is diversional and it’s just about keeping someone busy,” says Ciolfi. “We want to break that perception. Our team will help residents grow in their understanding of how leisure can benefit them, especially for a generation where the priority often focused on work and providing for their family. It’s important for residents to reflect on what they’re passionate about, what they enjoyed doing outside of work, and what gives them a sense of purpose.” 

Leveraging technology to create innovative programming is another direction Ciolfi hopes to move the team. Technology can provide an opportunity for the Recreation team to deliver equitable care and celebrate cultures in non-traditional ways.  

For those who wish to participate, virtual reality, as an example, can transport residents to their home country or allow them to have an immersive experience with another culture.  

The vision for the team doesn’t end here. Along with this work, Ciolfi’s goal is to position PCH as a leader in recreation therapy and adult day program delivery.  

Establishing relationships with the therapeutic recreation community, actively participating in research projects, sharing ideas with peers across the province and country, and connecting with post-secondary institutions to help teach and train future therapeutic recreation professionals are all a part of the dream to push the needle forward. 

“The Recreation team is on a great journey and has already built a strong foundation. I’m excited about what the future holds, and the opportunity to highlight what we do daily that sets PCH apart in our approach to recreation therapy,” says Ciolfi. 

Creating better resident experiences 

An important part of the recreation program planning process at Camilla involves strong collaboration between residents and staff. 

Currently, Ratanprasad, who has been with the Recreation team since October 2020, leads a team of seven recreation staff. She empowers her team to be creative, collaborate with residents, and bring to life programs that both staff and residents want to see at Camilla.  

Diane Ratanprasad, Director of Programs, posing with art created by residents at Camilla Care for a Black History Month program organized by the Recreation team.

For Ratanprasad, developing the monthly recreation calendar is truly a team approach. Staff work with residents one-on-one or in group settings to gather ideas about what residents are interested in.  

“It’s important for staff to see that my vision for the programs is not the only option. I encourage them to implement programs that they feel passionate about. I want them to be creative and feel comfortable suggesting programs,” says Ratanprasad.  

Over the past couple months, the recreation team has helped residents reminisce on holiday traditions over a glass of eggnog, celebrate Chinese New Year and Lohri with music and traditional dance, and travel virtually to a tropical Hawaiian getaway. 

Ratanprasad and Ciolfi agree that engaging residents through both the development and delivery of meaningful recreation programs leads to a better quality of life for those living in long-term care. 

“Recreation therapy is important because it’s all about getting to know the residents. I always encourage my team to dig deep and dive into the residents’ lives. Find out things that they enjoy and have a passion for, and bring those things into the light through our programming. If you get to know the resident, their family, their background, or where they came from, you can create impactful programs that are tailored to their needs,” says Ratanprasad. 

Participation in recreation and leisure is a crucial part of providing a fulsome care experience. 

“You cannot separate leisure from an individual,” says Ciolfi. “Everyone has experienced leisure in life and has something they are passionate about. Recreation therapy is there to enhance that. If you don’t address recreation and leisure, then you’re not providing holistic care.” 

For Therapeutic Recreation Awareness Month, some of the Recreation staff at Camilla shared what they enjoy about being part of the Recreation team. Read what they said on social media. 

More To Explore