#45: Elder Engagement with Lauretta Kaldor

Season #4

Diversional therapist Lauretta Kaldor is true pioneer in her field, and has a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to share. Starting out as a school teacher in the 1950s at the age of 19, her journey towards diversional therapy began later in life when she was teaching arts and crafts to older people. When asked to run her classes in a residential care facility, Lauretta discovered a true passion for working with elders and has never looked back.

She realised early that it was very important to adapt the activities to suit – the challenge was to produce activities that were adult and not childish, but could be completed and enjoyed by older people with varying abilities. With no resources available at the time to guide her, Lauretta was forced to discover herself which activities to do, through a process of trial and error. She started documented everything she was doing, and spent time reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. These notes were not only useful to show management what the class was working on, they also formed the basis of her first book in 1984.

Since then she has achieved formal qualifications in Leisure and Health (while in her 60s) and Dementia (in her 80s) and has written many more books for leisure staff working in aged care containing ideas on craft, reminiscing programs and games.

During her group work and time spent one-on-one with residents, Lauretta found that the benefits lie not only in the activity itself, but also in the relationship you build with people. When the connection is there, the residents know what to expect, and look forward to the sessions as they know they will be doing something enjoyable.

Through targeted activities, Lauretta finds art and crafts a powerful way to share stories and reminisce, especially when combined with a teaching aid that will spark memories and help people remember. She also emphasises the importance of understanding a person’s social history, as without this knowledge you may unintentionally trigger a trauma.

Today, Lauretta remains as passionate and hungry for knowledge as ever, and encourages her colleagues to listen to podcasts and attend every course possible to continue to learn more. She believes you can never ‘overlearn’, especially when it comes to the workings of the brain, where revision will only deepen your understanding of mental health and dementia. 

She finished our interview with some sound advice: enjoy what you are doing. Because if you enjoy it you are more than likely going to be successful.


In this episode you will learn:

  • Valuable tips, strategies and insights for creating leisure programs
  • The importance of planning, documenting and revising what you do
  • Why ongoing learning is critical at every stage of your career
  • How to build a connection and relationship through leisure programs
  • Why you need to understand a person’s social history before you begin



Visit Lauretta Kaldor’s website for free ideas and resources: http://laurettakaldor.com.au/