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Diversional therapy in aged care

Last Updated at September 20th 2021
Diversional therapy is a little known service that is used by many aged care facilities and other aged care services that provides residents with an improved standard of living, enjoyment and fulfilment.
Older people doing an activity with balloons.
Diversional therapy is used in a lot of different ways and in a variety of aged care settings. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Activities are created based on the individual needs and abilities of residents or clients

  • People with dementia in particular get huge benefits from diversional therapy

  • Diversional therapy is utilised in a wide variety of industries, including aged care

Even some health professionals are not aware of the role of a diversional therapist and how they can improve resident moods and ease the workload on staff.

Diversional therapy is used in a lot of different ways and in a variety of aged care settings. This includes at community groups or day centres and in respite programs, retirement homes and aged care facilities.

The therapy focuses not just on activities to engage people and keep them occupied but on developing a range of hands-on and holistic programs and activities to help improve the social and emotional wellbeing of residents. This could include art classes, discussions about different topics, yoga, computer lessons or garden games.

Diversional therapy also has a focus on the spiritual and mental wellbeing of their aged care residents or participants.

It is a client-centred service that understands leisure and recreation is incredibly important to people in aged care or receiving aged care services.

Diversional therapy in aged care

In aged care, therapy staff work closely with the residents and nursing home staff to design a leisure and recreation program that will maximise the lives of residents in the home.

These activities are designed in ways to support their psychological, spiritual, social, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Diversional therapy can also include group sessions with multiple residents, which also improves social engagement and provides a place to enhance self-esteem and personal satisfaction.

Sometimes, residents will have tailored activities to do that meet their current abilities or personal needs.

A therapist will actively create care plans for residents and talk to family and friends about activities that bring them joy.

What activities can they include?

Residents are encouraged to participate and have fun as best they can through the different activities and games.

These activities can improve:

  • Mood swings

  • Orientation and memory

  • Encourage social interaction

  • Expression and communication

  • Give confidence to residents around their own abilities

  • Provide purpose to a resident so they do not disconnect from the world around them

Some of these leisure activities can include pet therapy, aromatherapy and massage, education sessions and discussion groups for hobbies like cooking and gardening, music sessions, computer classes, and arts and crafts.

Examples of diversional activities include indoor basketball, painting, music therapy, and brain teasers and puzzles.

The important thing about this therapy is that these activities are not meant to feel like they are trying to fill a residents day. The therapy is developed to make people feel like they are engaging in something that brings them joy.

Diversional therapy and dementia

This specialised service is sometimes used to handle difficult behaviours in people with dementia.

Diversional therapy can give so much more meaning and quality of life to a person with dementia, who may be unable to communicate due to their cognitive ability or dementia.

There are huge benefits to using diversional therapy with people who have behaviour issues, including a noticeable decrease in emotional outbursts.

Older people with dementia need to be engaged in ways that are entertaining and fun, and diversional therapy provides that avenue to keep their minds active and busy.


Have you participated in diversional therapy activities before? What activities did you enjoy? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Quality of life factors for older Australians

Dementia behaviour changes and challenges

Mental benefits of puzzles and brain games for older people


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