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Geriatric Massage

Geriatric Massage: Can You Be Too Old to Get a Massage?

Question:

As I’ve gotten older, arthritis and other conditions have left me mentally and physically exhausted. It’s all I can do to keep up with the doctor’s appointments and other demands on my time. I thought I was supposed to be retired! When my granddaughter suggested massage, I laughed. I’m in my mid-70s. Aren’t I too old for a massage?

Answer:

Your granddaughter is a smart woman, and no – you are never too old for a massage. On the contrary, massage therapy can ameliorate many of the common aches and pains associated with aging.[1] Massage can relieve the physical symptoms of many chronic health conditions seniors live with, including arthritis, diabetes, and COPD.[2]

Massage provides emotional benefits as well, reducing stress and providing an overall feeling of well-being. Studies have shown that regular massage improves the quality of life of older patients, allowing them to feel more healthy and balanced.[3]

Obviously, being older can present some issues. Book a massage therapist who has experience with senior clients, and communicate clearly with them about all of your conditions so that they can create an individualized plan for you.[4] Keep in mind that around 90 percent of seniors have at least one chronic medical condition while more than half deal with some type of disability. You are not alone, and a professional massage therapist will be understanding and empathetic with that. Typically, a massage therapist will offer a shorter session for you, reduce their level of pressure, and make sure your body is positioned safely and comfortably.[5]

Swedish massage is the type of massage most commonly recommended for seniors. It combines gentle stroking and kneading with gentle stretching to reduce tension in your muscles and improve your balance and posture.[6]

Massage for seniors provides mental health benefits as well. A study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias showed a marked reduction in verbal aggression and nonaggressive behavior in patients with dementia who received massages regularly over a six-week period.[7]

Start by booking a massage appointment once a week for 4 to 6 weeks. If you don’t feel like it’s benefiting you in any way, you can always stop at that point – but it’s important to keep it going for at least a month, as benefits can be cumulative. Let your doctors and other healthcare providers know you’re considering massage before you book your first session. They’ll let you know if the treatment is ill-advised for you or if there are any precautions you should take.

References:

[1] American Massage Therapy Association: “Massage for Seniors: What the Research Says,” https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/2318/massage-for-seniors-what-the-research-says

[2] Massage Magazine, “This Is Why Older Americans Definitely Need Massage,” https://www.massagemag.com/older-americans-senior-massage-88322/

[3] Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: “Therapeutic Benefits of Massage for the Elderly,” https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/01/22/therapeutic-benefits-massage-elderly

[4] Id.

[5] American Massage Therapy Association: “Massage and the Aging Body,” https://www.amtamassage.org/articles/3/MTJ/detail/2315/massage-and-the-aging-body

[6] Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: “Therapeutic Benefits of Massage for the Elderly,” https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/01/22/therapeutic-benefits-massage-elderly

[7] American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: “Physical and psychological effects of 6-week tactile massage on elderly patients with severe dementia,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21131675

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