It's a job that gets no attention but is one of the most important roles in aged-care facilities.

Diversional therapists, the people who know every resident of their rest home and their families, the people who spend time coming up with new activities every day and are always there for the residents.

They're there to keep them entertained, to be a listening ear, to help stimulate their minds and to spend quality time with them.

Celebrating National Diversional Therapy Week from September 19-24, diversional therapists from around the country are using the week to raise awareness of their role.

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Diversional therapy practitioners work with people of all ages and abilities to design and facilitate leisure and recreation programmes to enhance and develop the physical, social, spiritual, emotional and psychological wellbeing of individuals.

Kapiti Rest Home residents and neighbours Trish Wilson and Nola Smith with artwork they have done in diversional therapy. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Kapiti Rest Home residents and neighbours Trish Wilson and Nola Smith with artwork they have done in diversional therapy. Photo / Rosalie Willis

For Kapiti Rest Home diversional therapist Yvette Hughes, the job is hugely rewarding.

"Diversional therapy must be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world," she said.

Focusing on helping residents have a better quality of life, Yvette runs activities and projects for residents to help them be active and learn new skills while providing them with company and friendship at the same time.

"Some elderly residents come to us unsure of what lies ahead and have become lonely.

"Many have just sold their houses, left jobs, and feel like they have lost their independence.

"It's amazing to help them find new joy in the small things in life, like companionship, nature, arts and crafts, music, to name a few.

"To see them blossom under the love and care we give them is very fulfilling."

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The residents at Kapiti Rest Home have made bird feeders which they have hung across the road so they can spot the birds from the window while still inside, painted rocks and hidden them around reserves and parks for kids to discover, along with many more activities.

But their work does not only impact the people they work with.

"Working with this gorgeous generation of individuals makes me realise on a daily basis how grateful we have to be every day for what we have around us," Yvette said.

"This generation has taught me to stop when I see a nice flower and appreciate it - to appreciate face-to-face conversations, to go back to my roots and just enjoy life in a simple manner.

"They have taught me that love, happiness and good health are not just words, it's something to strive for every day.

"Every day is special in this job, my residents truly make this job special. I just love that I can be a valued friend and confidant to them.

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"It has given me new purpose knowing that I can help them and be there for them when they need me."

Moving to New Zealand from South Africa, Yvette was formally a primary school teacher but upon arriving in New Zealand decided to train in something different.

"I've always loved my oldies and wanted to work with the elderly."

With two children of her own, Yvette's children now have many New Zealand grandparents at Kapiti Rest Home.

Diversional therapists also rely on the help of volunteers coming in to help them with activities in specific areas, such as bring in puppies for pet therapy, musicians for music therapy, or an extra pair of hands for art and crafts.

"Our volunteers are an integral part of making our programmes successful. Our residents love having visitors and our volunteers just brightens up their days with their visits.

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"As New Zealand's population is ageing, it is becoming more critical to have a structure in place where the elderly is cared for in a way that enrich their lives."

"At the rest home where I work, I witness on a daily basis the value our programmes have for the elderly residents in our care.

"We give them a reason to come out of their rooms and enjoy the day with us."

The occupation now has a formal qualification with a national certificate through NZQA and a national certificate and a professional body, New Zealand Society of Diversional and Recreational Therapists, that all registered diversional therapists are members of.

Yvette is a registered diversional therapist working at Kapiti Rest Home on Marine Parade.

She is also an executive on the New Zealand Society of Diversional and Recreation Therapist National Executive Board.

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