Last Updated: June 14, 2024

We’ve all heard of the common forms of therapy, including physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and therapy for behavioral and mental health. But did you know there are many other therapeutic approaches available for seniors to engage in to improve their physical and mental health?

From art and music to gardening and pets, many varieties of therapy exist that take a more holistic approach to seniors’ health and wellness. These alternatives can be a supplement to standard therapies, or they can be done as a standalone practice. Either way, alternative therapies can be a powerful tool for enriching the lives of seniors. 

 Let’s explore five of the best alternative therapies for seniors in Florida.

alternative therapies for seniors

1. Art Therapy

woman painting a lighthouse

Art therapy for seniors is based on the notion that being artistic and creative helps promote healing, self-expression, and mental well-being. Art therapy is led by trained experts in both art and psychology. The focus of this type of therapy is not on artistic abilities or final products, but instead on the process of being creative and expressing oneself.

Some techniques commonly used in art therapy include painting, drawing, doodling, coloring, sculpting, and photography.

Art therapy is intended for people of all ages and abilities. It is often utilized in settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, senior centers, assisted living, and memory care communities. Art therapy is highly beneficial for seniors as it helps keep memory sharp, reduces stress, promotes communication and self-expression, improves mood, and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. So channel your inner Picasso and start reaping the many benefits of art therapy!

2. Music Therapy

older man playing guitar with friends

Music therapy for seniors is similar to art therapy, but it instead uses the power of music to enhance mental wellness and emotional health. It is commonly used for seniors to encourage socialization, reduce stress, and promote self-expression. Music therapy utilizes four main techniques: receptive, re-creation, improvisation, and composition/songwriting. 

During receptive music therapy, the therapist plays music and in response, the senior is free to express themselves through dancing, writing, or with words. 

Re-creation music therapy involves various musical activities such as singing songs, playing instruments, and doing rhythmic exercises. 

Improvisation therapy involves the senior creating simple music with their voice, body percussion, or instruments. 

Finally, during composition/songwriting therapy, the senior is able to create their own music or lyrics.

All of these techniques help seniors express their emotions, feel a sense of purpose and achievement, improve their cognitive functioning, feel joy and nostalgia, and foster social interaction and community involvement. After all, who doesn’t love a good jam session?

3. Pet Therapy

older man petting a service dog

One of the most beloved forms of alternative therapy is pet therapy. This type of therapeutic intervention uses animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, and more to improve seniors’ physical and mental health.

Animals involved in pet therapy are thoroughly trained to be well-socialized and interact with seniors, especially those who may have limited mobility.

The three main types of pet therapy are ownership therapy, visitation therapy, and animal assisted therapy (AAT). 

With ownership therapy, the senior actually owns the pet. This option is best for seniors who are active, mobile, and able to successfully care for a pet. 

Visitation therapy, the most common type of pet therapy, involves animals coming to visit seniors, either in their homes or senior living communities. Visitation therapy is what most people picture when they think of pet therapy.

Finally, animal assisted therapy is an intensive form of therapy for seniors who need extreme rehabilitation. Oftentimes this type of therapy involves highly sensitive animals like horses and dolphins to improve and practice physical skills. 

Pet therapy has been proven to be extremely beneficial for seniors. Pet therapy requires seniors to increase their mobility and physical activity by walking or playing with the pet. It also promotes mental activity, increases communication, reduces loneliness, encourages affection, decreases stress, and lowers blood pressure. Not to mention, therapy pets bring love and joy to everyone they meet.

The power of pets is incredible!

4. Aquatic Therapy

older woman using a floatation device in pool

Aquatic therapy, also known as hydrotherapy or aquatherapy, is a technique that has been used for thousands of years, including for seniors. It involves the senior performing certain physical stretches and exercises in temperature-controlled water for physical rehabilitation, relaxation, and fitness. The goal of aquatic therapy for seniors is muscle relaxation, increased strength, improved joint motion, and pain reduction. 

Aquatic therapy is especially beneficial for seniors, as it puts less pressure on joints, reduces inflammation, and provides a safer environment to practice balance, mobility, and strength exercises. Studies have shown that water-based exercises can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health, and can also help people improve their exercise habits.

Some techniques used in aquatic therapy include underwater walking and stair training, strength training with water weights, stretching with flotation belts, and more. 

Aquatic therapy can be done in both indoor and outdoor pools. Seniors in Florida have the unique advantage of having access to outdoor pools year-round, making aquatic therapy more accessible. 

5. Horticultural Therapy

older couple gardening

Horticultural therapy, sometimes known as gardening therapy, is the use of gardening, plants, and plant-based activities for the purpose of healing and rehabilitation. This practice has been used for thousands of years to improve people’s physical, mental, and cognitive health, and has gotten more popular and widely recognized in more recent years.

Horticultural therapy is often used with seniors as it is accessible for those with limited mobility. Research has shown that working with plants promotes relaxation, heightens senses, improves physical health, and increases cognitive awareness. For seniors in particular, gardening is also an opportunity to socialize with others, work toward a common goal, feel a sense of purpose, increase self-esteem, be engaged in the community, decrease stress, and spend time outdoors. 

Some activities used in horticultural therapy include tending to gardens, sowing seeds, drying herbs, harvesting produce, potting plants, creating floral arrangements, and many more.

Like with aquatic therapy, Florida seniors are at an advantage by having nice weather year-round, allowing them to be outside and work in gardens no matter the season. So bring your green thumb and get gardening!

How to find alternative therapy for seniors

older man painting on an easel

As you can see, there are many options available for Florida seniors to engage in alternative therapies to improve their health and wellness. But how can you find these opportunities?

One of the best ways to access alternative therapies is through assisted living communities. These communities often have regular therapists on rotation who specialize in alternative approaches such as pet therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and more. 

If you are interested in finding a senior living community in Florida that offers a specific type of therapy, reach out to Florida Senior Consulting Advisors!

Our expert senior advisors will find you a community that meets all your needs and interests, whether it be regular pet therapy, water aerobics classes, gardening clubs, art classes, or other offerings!

Best of all, we offer these services at no cost to you or your family.

So give us a call at (800) 969-7176 or visit FloridaSeniorConsulting.com to get started finding the perfect community for you. 

Senior living on your terms. The choice should be yours.

Contact Florida Senior Consulting

(800) 969-7176