Massage for our Baby Boomers
When I first started working with older clients, I was initially worried, that they might be much more fragile and that Swedish or Relaxation massage was what I would be providing to these clients. Because I typically give very deep tissue massage, I wasn’t even sure if I was even capable of giving a Swedish massage. I believed that I would simply have to be a little more careful, work with light pressure and in general just be mindful of the client’s age and fragility. In some cases this is the case but for the what I found was that baby-boomer clients are no different than my younger clients, they have the same muscle soreness issues as everyone else and they do enjoy the types of massage, including deep tissue massage, that address and help to resolve these issues.
My views on working with the elderly community completely changed when I met Susan. Susan was 85 years old and had within the last year experienced a heart attack. This alone worried me. But things were different once Susan was on the table.
“Harder! Press harder!” was what I heard form Susan as I was trying my best to apply gentle pressure with to the adhesions I was finding along her erector spinae . It was a bit amusing as she kept reminding me….. “Just because I’m old doesn’t mean I break easily!”. When the session was finished my view on treating aging clients had completely changed…in fact working with seniors has since become one of my favourite groups to work with.
People age 65 plus are clearly part of the fastest-growing segment of our Canadian and American population. In fact, according to William Hanley’s Financial Post article, “Welcome to old age, Boomers”. American, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling became the first baby-boomer to reach official “old age” and the first to file for Social Security benefits. William Hanley’s also indicates “About nine million Canadian boomers, the demographers reckon, will begin turning 65 this year, our boom having started a year later than the United States. So more than 1,000 of us will reach official old age each and every day for almost 20 years”.
This is a huge group of older people of all health and fitness levels who do and will continue to require all levels of physical and medical care.
Is Baby Boomer Massage (Elder Massage) Different?
When we think of massage for the baby boomer generation (Elder Massage) we tend to think that the way we massage and the ways in which we might interact with this demographic of client must be different. Then you, as a therapist, must ask…. Why would working with an older client be any different? Why would the boundaries I set, the ways in which I communicate be different? And the answers to these questions made me realize that age had no bearing whatsoever on the boundaries that are in place. Age had no bearing on the fact that all clients have unique issues and as a result treatment sessions must be custom to that clients needs. Finally, Age has completely no bearing on how I communicate or respect my clients because these are simply qualities that should guide the therapist and should not change from client to client. There are some distinct things that might be only slightly different and must be considered but at the same time there are so many things we, as people, can learn from our older generation:
Patience and an ability to wait: In life, we all spend so much time waiting and this may be something that we need to be prepared for with our aging clients. you’re likely to spend time waiting for clients on walkers or in wheelchairs to go in and out of elevators, waiting for them to come to the door or waiting for them to get ready for the massage session. As a therapist, this is the perfect opportunity to relax and to look at this kind of waiting as a time for form a relationship with your client.
A good practice in mindfulness….In being present in the moment for your client. Remembering that clients may have certain pathologies where they won’t remember and as a therapist we must be prepared and very present in needing to answer the repetitive questioning of a client with Alzheimers: “why am I here?” “Why can’t I go home?” “How long have I lived here?” So be prepared to answer these questions, without judging for getting frustrated.
For me, working with my aging clients is a gift…a gift in helping me to learn patience, in learning to be non-judgemental and learning to be present in the moment with my client. But at the same time I feel a bit sad because each time I leave a client, I am aware that this may be our last session. “See you next week,” I say. And, occasionally, a knowing client will respond, “If I’m still here.”
Helping our clients feel appreciated: You will find that some aging clients will feel discarded by their families, by culture or simply because they are getting old. So being there and providing therapeutic and caring human touch is critical for not only caring for their bodies but caring for their minds. A half hour or an hour of respectful, attentive touch helps them feel valued and cared for.
Learning about history…really connecting with the client and their passions: The stories you will hear will be incredible….these clients have experienced so much in their lifetimes, most of which we cannot even imagine. There is so much we could learn from the older generation and we tend to forget that some of the best and most valuable lessons in life do not come from inanimate objects but from the people who are part of our lives…those who have lived longer than us…who had experienced so much more than we have. This is a time of listening and learning…embrace it! Learn from these relationships!
Benefits Of Baby Boomer Massage
While massage therapy offers our baby boomers (Elders) the same benefits as it offers our younger clients, it is particularly good because of the physical and emotional challenges that can affect people as they age. Some of the benefits are:
- 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
Massage for Baby Boomers uses some of the same basic massage techniques as other modalities but it also may be different in a few ways:
- Possibly Shorter sessions. A baby booomer massage session usually lasts no longer than 30 minutes, as a longer session may be too much for an elderly person. Again this is unique to the client.
- 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. Again, this is unique to the client.
- 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.
Baby Boomer Massage has been an amazing addition to Custom Bodies Fitness and Massage and we are thrilled to be available to help our absolutely incredible clients by providing massage.