What is Geriatric Massage?
Geriatric Massage is a specialized massage for senior citizens, that lasts for approximately 30 minutes. It is a modified form of Swedish Massage (soft tissue) that is suited to the sensitive and delicate skin and muscle structure or the elderly.
We have found through experience that gentle massage which is soothing and relaxing turns out to be all the more enjoyable for senior citizens as they are in need of caring physical touch and emotional support. Many of our elders experience loneliness, fear of death and disease, fear of being dependent and of course, suffer from certain age-related health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, nervous disorders, etc. This leads to tension, anxiety and physical weakness which are relieved through Geriatric Massage.
Need for Geriatric Massage
It is not necessary that all senior citizens are weak and suffering from disease. Many of our elders are more fit than us as they used to have a lot of physical activity during their younger days. However, those who are fit also require regular massage because with age, the muscles have comparatively less capacity and strength and blood and lymph circulation is also less.
Geriatric massage is especially important for those who are not very mobile or are on the wheel chair. It includes light stretching, reflexology and massage on hands and feet and gentle manipulation of muscles which helps in improving the posture, circulation, relaxation, gives relief in pain and in conditions like arthritis, gout, Parkinson’s, etc. It helps to release toxins from the body, improves respiration, digestion, better sleep, helps to maintain sensation in extremities and moisture, texture and tone of skin and muscles.
This therapy is mainly taken as a preventive therapy to help avoid health conditions and to keep the joints and extremities in good condition.
Requirements of a Geriatric Massage Therapist
A therapist performing Geriatric Massage needs to have knowledge not only of massage techniques but also knowledge of psychology, etiquette, nervous system, hygiene, diseases, medication and their repercussions on health and skin and how they would affect the massage procedure.
There can be some health conditions that are contraindicated in Geriatric Massage and so the therapist should do a thorough client assessment before beginning the treatment and ask for a doctor’s certificate where necessary. The therapist needs to be sensitive to the client’s feelings and reactions during the treatment. Even a slight excess pressure can cause pain and discomfort. There will be no fixed system of massage, it would differ from client to client. There is no place for deep tissue massage in Geriatric Massage. Even if the client may have excess cellulite, deep tissue massage may lead to pain and soreness after a few hours.
In this therapy, special care is taken to make sure the client is in a comfortable position and is kept warm. In most cases, clients will not be comfortable lying in the prone (face down) position and so massage has to be done in such a way that both sides are covered without moving the client.
Geriatric Massage is a highly underrated but a much needed therapy. There is still not much awareness of this technique in India. So it is our duty as trained massage therapists to spread awareness for the benefit of our elders. A good place to start our practice would be in our own family, hospitals and old age homes.
Our elders need to feel cared for and if done by a close family member, the feeling of well-being, positivity and happiness generated from Geriatric Massage can be manifold.
Writer: Mr. Pinakin Shah
Training in Body-Mind Therapies
(image courtesy - ttuhsc.edu)