Americans are living longer, healthier, and more active lives than ever before. Specifically, the 65 and older population reached just under 50 million, and it is projected to increase to around 98 million by 2060. Whether you regularly work out at the gym or lead a more sedentary lifestyle, massage therapy should be a regular part of your self-care. Massage therapy can be beneficial at any age, and in particular is very beneficial for the geriatric population.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), advanced medical research, health care improvements, and our medical communities’ support for physical activity all play a dominant role in the increasing significance of healthy aging. But there is also a cross-generational effort to make our golden years count by initiating healthy habits sooner rather than later. According to Mintel research, more than 55% of Americans reported living a healthier lifestyle in 2017 in comparison to 2016, and 45% stated that they made “dramatic changes to improve their health.”
Keep on Moving
It is so important to keep our bodies moving every day. Physical activity not only strengthens our muscles and our joints, but also improves our mood. In our 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass and function. Decades of sitting at a desk on a regular basis can result in tight pectoral muscles and weak back muscles, causing a muscle imbalance. Therapeutic massage can enhance muscular health, improve posture holding patterns, and keep us actively headed toward healthy aging.
Recent scientific research on aging and disease has included geriatric massage as a way to benefit the aging population. This type of massage uses gentle massage techniques and light stretching without excessive friction on the skin. It is non-invasive and gentle. For seniors, mature skin contains less moisture and is more susceptible to bruising and tearing with standard massage. Geriatric massage instead uses soothing, gentle strokes and mild stretching, and sessions are usually shorter, lasting about 30 minutes. Research has shown that older people living with chronic conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, respond positively to a weekly 30-minute massage. Also, massage has therapeutic benefits in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients because it promotes relaxation and facilitates communication.
Geriatric patients frequently complain of joint stiffness and arthritis. The resulting pain can severely limit a senior’s mobility. Not being able to move easily and enjoy everyday activities can increase feelings of helplessness, aggravation, and depression in older patients. As a result, they have poor circulation and limited physical capability. Receiving regular massages soothes joint stiffness, lowers blood pressure, alleviates arthritis pain, increases range of motion in joints, improves posture, improves muscle tone and strength, and even helps with balance. Even gentle massage has a proven effect on blood circulation and the nervous system.
Research on massage therapy for pain, conducted by the Samueli Institute in 2016 and commissioned by the Massage Therapy Foundation (with support from the American Massage Therapy Association), concluded that massage therapy is a viable recommendation for pain management. Therapeutic massage also stimulates lymphatic flow, thereby strengthening the immune system.
Massage Therapy for the Mind
In addition to physical ailments, advanced age can lead to mental ailments. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness are all common mental health problems in the elderly. Geriatric massage can be a comforting and relaxing experience, while helping with stress relief and better quality of sleep. Human touch is very important and powerful—especially in our later years. Massage therapy is a great way to experience the therapeutic benefits of touch and to help combat those other negative emotions. Touch reduces blood pressure, creates bonds with others, reduces anxiety, and generally makes people feel happier. Sadly, many seniors find that they have fewer opportunities to engage in touch as they age. Massage is a wonderful way to fulfill our need for touch. Seniors report feeling less depressed and having a more positive outlook on life following a massage.
Not only does massage ease muscle and joint pain, it also reduces stress, which often increases in old age. Geriatric massage can help to maintain and improve overall health, as well as regain certain physical functions that have been reduced or lost due to aging.
Age is just a number. An elderly person can be fit, active, and independent; they can be sedentary, in pain, with limited mobility, or they may be somewhere in between. Massage therapy has been shown to improve the quality of life—both physically and mentally—for all types of people.
Kristina Mozzicato is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork by the NCBTMB. A 2009 graduate of the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy, she is also certified in Cupping and ACE MediCupping™. Kristina is the owner of Abundant Health Massage Therapy & Wellness in Farmington, CT and was named a 2020 and 2021 Natural Nutmeg Magazine 10 Best Award recipient in the category of Massage and Bodywork.
For more information and convenient online booking, please visit: www.abundanthealthct.com.