Massage is beneficial for adults of all ages, including those who are considered elderly. Massage for the elderly can reduce pain and decrease the sense of isolation felt by the individual, by providing a human connection often lacking in the elderly person’s life. It can also provide a means of reconnecting with a body that is slower and sometimes more frail than it used to be, as well as increase circulation, benefiting both the body and mind.
While massage methods are not qualitatively different for a younger person than for someone over age 70, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. For example, an elderly person has less muscle tissue than a younger individual. Muscle is replaced by fat and more connective tissue as a person ages. The connective tissue is not as flexible as that of a younger person; bones are thinner and more easily broken, and skin is thinner and more easily bruised, all factors requiring adjustments in positioning, pressure, and massage strokes when treating an elderly client with osteoarthritis.
Approaching the elderly client with compassion and caring will go a long way toward creating a successful practice with that client base. Elderly individuals may be depressed, a side effect of medications, or the result of chemical imbalances or situational factors. Spending time talking to an elderly client can, in some cases, significantly ease some of the social isolation elderly individuals may feel after the death of spouses, friends, and loved ones. Massage for the elderly can be effective in easing loneliness and depression caused by situational factors, and can lessen dependence on certain medications.
Diminished cognitive function may also be present in an elderly client, in the case, for example, of Alzheimer’s disease or other complications. Massage may decrease the tendency toward wandering and anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s, but consent from a relative is necessary if the individual is unable to consent to treatment.
Extending your massage practice to the elderly is a mutually beneficial way to grow your practice. Your local care facility may allow you have a chair massage day. Do you have a practice that serves the elderly? Share your experiences in the comments below.