Therapeutic Group Activities for the Elderly

Updated April 17, 2017

As people age, their bodies and minds may get slower, which can limit the type of activities that they can do. However, there are still many options that provide much needed stimulation. Exercise classes, dancing and outdoor adventures can be practised individually or in group settings and offer many therapeutic benefits for the elderly.

Excercise Classes

Exercising can be very therapeutic for the elderly. Yoga, modified for seniors, can restore balance, soothe aching muscles, enhance longevity, help breathing and provide confidence. Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer of the UCLA Pediatric Pain Program explained in a 2005 LA Yoga magazine story that yoga is "highly therapeutic and safe for people with medical conditions, including chronic pain."

Tai chi offers similar therapeutic benefits as yoga.The practice uses slow movements that can build strength and confidence, and help with relaxation. According to Zibin Guo, a medical anthropologist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, t'ai chif the simplest ways of engaging in self-care." The ancient Chinese martial art can be performed in group settings.

A group swim class is another idea that is therapeutic to aching bones and can build stronger muscles. According to El Cerrito physical therapist Alan Ling, swimming is an exceptional therapy tool. "You eliminate gravity and move freely without restricting forces," said Ling. Yoga, t'ai chip swimming can be performed outdoors and indoors.


Dancing provides the elderly with an alternative way of expressing themselves and can be a group therapy activity. According to the Health Professions Network, dancing can be a tool used in managing stress, improving self-esteem and confidence, and building relationships.

There are many ways to incorporate group dancing, such as dance nights, partner dancing, group-led dancing and team dancing. The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance therapy as "the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration of individuals."

Outdoor Adventures

There are many outdoor activities that can be therapeutic for groups of elderly people. In a November 2009 Washington Post article on hiking, Eleanor Kennedy, a cardiologist in Little Rock, Arkansas, said, "Whether you are waddling, walking or running, going out and exercising will help build your confidence, flexibility and adaptability."

Fishing, nature walks, gardening, bird and wildlife watching, outdoor community service such as trash clean-up, and helping with outdoor animal adoption events can all be used as group therapy.

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About the Author

After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast television, Kasey Jones went to work for MTV, VH1, CBS, TVG, among others, as a producer, writer and editor. She's also a certified yoga instructor. Currently Jones is pursuing her passion for screenwriting, while living in Los Angeles.