Beatrice H. Hill (Mrs. Hill is the NRA consultant on hospital recreation.)
This year saw the largest attendance ever at the NRA Congress section on "Recreation for the Ill and Handicapped" -- over four hundred at the different meetings.
The first meeting, "Professional Preparation for Hospital Recreation Personnel," was chaired by Dr. Charles K. Brightbill of the University of Illinois. The summary of the meeting in the Congress Proceedings* will note the differences of opinion among the various people and colleges involved.
The next speaker, on "International Health and the Re-Creation of Man," was Dr. John Hanlon, chief of the Public Health Division of the International Cooperation Administration. He told how his organization has assisted programs in forty-four countries with the help of over four hundred health technicians. He said continued widespread prevalence of preventable disease is a major determent to economic development and political stability. Malaria is the number one killer in the world.
After this talk, three concurrent workshops were held and each was jammed. They were: "Recreation for Geriatric Patients," "Recreation for the Mentally Retarded," and "Recreation for the Ill Child."
The chairman of the geriatric workshop was the extremely capable Geneva Mathiasen of the National Social Welfare Assembly, with a notable panel of experts. They emphasized that activities were needed desperately for hospitals and homes for the aged. What good are all the wonder drugs if no activities are made available for those now so much better able to be active?
The workshop for recreation for the mentally retarded was the first of its kind. Dr. Elizabeth Boggs, education chairman of the National Association for Retarded Children, led a discussion group composed of authorities from several countries.
Dr. Maurice E. Linden, director of the Philadelphia Division of Mental Health, explained how the use of tranquilizing drugs is changing the pattern of care in mental institutions. Thousands of patients, formerly regarded as custodial and hopeless cases, now can be included in activities programs. Hospital administrators report that participation in all forms of recreation has increased fifty to five hundred percent.
Mentally ill persons, for many years confined to drab locked wards, now engage in sports, games, and supervised and unsupervised group play. Many locked wards are being opened daily, in increasing numbers.
It was amazing to learn of all that is being done internationally. Again I advise you to buy a copy of Congress Proceedings to learn of other countries' contributions to the ill and handicapped. To quote Donald Wilson, secretary general, International Society for the Welfare of Cripples: "In my travels in different parts of the world, one of the saddest things I observe is the large number of boys and girls confined to hospital beds with nothing to do to keep their minds occupied. Although they receive excellent medical care, it frequently occurs to me that the improvement of their physical well-being is offset by damage to their personality because of these enforced years of inactivity.
"Professional people in the field of recreation have a specific responsibility, not only to develop a high quality of service in their own communities, but also to share the benefits of their experience with other people throughout the world. It is only through this process of sharing that we can make certain that our professional responsibilities will be met."
Four concurrent "New Ideas Workshops" featured outstanding people in the field of music, drama, social activities, and arts and crafts.
Marian Chace, dance therapist at Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D. C., chaired the meeting on "The Recreation and Therapeutic Benefits of Dance." In her inspiring talk, she emphasized: "Dance is a natural means of communication rather than an artificial one, as we sometimes are blinded from seeing because of our cultural pattern of comparative stillness and our attempts to communicate almost entirely on a verbal level. Dance is not valuable for the ill and handicapped because of the illness but in spite of it, because it is a basic form of expression for people in general."
The meetings concluded with a "Tour of the U.S.A." via song and instruments, given by thirty wheelchair and stretcher-borne patients from Goldwater Memorial Hospital in New York City. Over four hundred people heard their enthusiastic voices and roared their approval -- a rousing climax to our final section.
*Available from the National Recreation Association. $3.00