Five years ago, one of my regular clients asked if I would be willing to work on her elderly mother- I said that I would be happy to. Her mother was in her 80s and she loved the massage treatment, and I loved working with her too. Soon after a network of elderly clients began calling for massage and I soon found myself working with people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. This has been a beautiful experience for me. My parents moved from Ireland to America when I was four so I was not raised with my grandparents. I was lucky enough to meet them several times as an adult before they died- honest, elderly people have just not been part of my life very much until now.
I love working with my elders…. and am continuously surprised at the vibrancy both mentally and physically of many of them. That said, I have also found myself unafraid to meet and address the many challenges both mentally and physically that come with aging clients. As with all of my other clients, it is beautiful to see the healing effects of massage on elderly bodies with limited range mobility… arthritis….loneliness… lack of touch…. and other issues that arise in the aging process.
I especially love hearing the stories of lives lived fully and the wisdom that age brings. And I feel that I too can share knowledge with my clients of how better to age with grace and good health using complementary alternative health modalities including the profoundly healing and effective of massage therapy.
From: Massage Today
Definition of Geriatric Massage
Geriatric massage is a form of massage designed to meet the specific needs of the elderly population. It involves using massage hands to manipulate the soft tissues of the body to improve blood circulation, relieve pain and increase range of motion. Active or passive movement of the joints may also be part of geriatric massage.
Elderly people often suffer from a variety of such age-related diseases as Parkinson’s, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease or strokes. As a result, they have poor circulation and limited physical capability. Many of them are also anxious, depressed and lonely. Geriatric massage can help them maintain and improve their overall health, as well as regain certain physical functions that have been reduced or lost due to aging. In addition, it can relieve anxiety and depression and provide comfort to touch-deprived elderly patients and improve their quality of life.
Geriatric massage offers the following benefits:
Improvement of the patient’s quality of life and self-esteem.
Improvement in length and quality of sleep.
Relief of stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Alleviation of headaches and pain.
Speeding up of healing from injury and illness.
Partial restoration of mobility lost due to Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, etc.
Mental and physical relaxation.
Improvement in lymphatic flow which increases the excretion of toxic substances from the body.
Geriatric massage uses some of the same basic massage techniques as other modalities. It is, however, tailored to the specific health conditions and needs of the elderly population. Geriatric massage has the following characteristics:
Use of gentle massage hand motion. These motions are comfortable and soothing to the body. They are designed to improve blood circulation – including in diabetic feet – relieve muscle tension and relax the body and the mind.
Gentle massaging of the hands and feet (if the joints are not inflamed) to prevent stiffness and relieve pain.
Occasional use of stronger movements such as friction and pressure strokes. These are sometimes used to massage such areas as the shoulders to improve flexibility.
The positive effects of massage rest on sound science. Even a gentle massage has a proven effect on blood circulation and the nervous system. These two body systems are especially vulnerable to the effects of aging. Geriatric massage stimulates these systems in a natural, pain-free way. Because of this, there are none of the side effects that are present in many medications. This is important for those who are being treated for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, depression and many other conditions requiring regular medications. In many cases, a regular massage (once a week) enables the physician to reduce medications. Proper geriatric massage also helps strengthen muscles weakened by disuse and helps reduce pain and stiffness in the hip, knee and shoulder joints. This is why the professional geriatric massage therapist routinely asks for permission to talk with or get written permission from a physician for an elderly client’s massage.
There are many age-related conditions that can be improved with a weekly half-hour massage. Research has shown that even people living with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease respond positively to the skilled hands of a geriatric massage therapist.