Geriatric massage is massage therapy for people who are in their older years. This type of massage takes into account the many factors that influence an aging body, including one’s overall health status, medical conditions, and medication use.
In this article, we explore how geriatric massage may benefit you or a loved one. And we provide tips for how to find a certified geriatric massage therapist near you.
Massages are a type of complementary or alternative therapy. They’re not considered part of conventional medicine, but they may be an additional type of intervention that helps manage your health symptoms.
Geriatric massage is specifically geared toward a person of advanced age. Older people have special considerations to keep in mind when getting a massage. A massage therapist will consider all the factors of aging along with a person’s specific health conditions when tailoring the massage.
Keep in mind that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to geriatric massage. Everyone is different with unique health conditions and overall fitness.
There are many reasons geriatric massage may be beneficial for you or a loved one.
Many older adults lack positive physical contact with others on a regular basis. A massage therapist can fulfill this need for you or a loved one with the touch a massage provides.
Other overall benefits to geriatric massage can include:
- stress reduction
- improved mental outlook
- pain management
- increased blood circulation
- better sleep
What the research says
There’s been a lot of research studying the benefits of geriatric massage. Here are a few notable studies:
One studyin the International Journal of Older People Nursing looked at 14 studies related to aging adults living in residential care who received massages. The study concluded that massage can enhance the health and well-being of adults in residential care.
- Another study investigated the benefits of hand and foot massage in 12 older adults requiring long-term care. The study found that they experienced positive feelings after both types of massage.
Japanese studyincluded 36 participants who lived in geriatric facilities. The participants experienced relaxed feelings from 15-minute hand massages. Their skin temperature also increased.
- A 6-week period of massage helped reduce stress and aggressive behavior in a
clinical studyof those with dementia.
A massage therapist will consider several factors for people of advanced age to ensure their experience is safe and beneficial.
Overall health status
A massage therapist will first consider your overall health when providing a geriatric massage. This may involve observing your movements along with asking questions about your health status and activity level.
Keep in mind that the aging body encounters changes to systems in the body. Your body may be more sensitive to pressure, your joints may work differently, and your muscles and bones may be more vulnerable.
It’s important to let your massage therapist know about any health conditions you may have prior to your massage. These can include chronic conditions like arthritis, cancer, circulatory conditions, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, or heart conditions.
This is especially important if you’re advocating for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A massage therapist should be aware of all health conditions before performing the massage.
If you take one or several medications to treat health conditions, let your massage therapist know. They can modify the massage based on the effects of the medications.
As you age, the thickness and durability of your skin changes. The massage therapist will determine how much pressure they can apply safely to your skin. Too much pressure could result in breaking or irritating your skin.
You may experience pain differently as an older adult due to reduced blood flow, a health condition, or medication.
Tell your massage therapist if you have an increased sensitivity to pain or if you’re unable to feel pain until it’s extreme. This can avoid injury or discomfort.
You may become more sensitive to heat or cold as you age. It may also be difficult for you to regulate your temperature. Make sure to mention any sensitivity to temperature to your massage therapist so they can accommodate you.
To conduct a safe geriatric massage, a massage therapist may:
- conduct a shorter massage
- apply a lighter touch
- position you in a way that is sensitive to your body’s needs
- provide blankets, bolsters, or cushioning pads to make the massage more comfortable
- visit you where you live versus having you travel to a different location
- schedule the massage during hours when you feel up to it
Finding the right massage therapist for a geriatric massage is key to having a positive, beneficial experience.
Here are some ways you can find a qualified geriatric massage therapist:
- Ask your doctor or local health or community center for a recommendation.
- See if your long-term residential health facility offers massage services.
- Do an Internet search to find local massage therapists. Contact them to find out if they specialize in geriatric treatments.
Most states require massage therapists to be licensed. Confirm the massage therapist’s credentials before getting a massage.
Massage therapy is considered an alternative or complementary therapy by Medicare parts A and B. Therefore, it’s not covered and will require out-of-pocket payments.
Medicare part C may include some provisions for massage therapy, but you will need to check your individual plan.
The cost of a geriatric massage can range from $50 to $90 for a 1-hour massage.
Geriatric massage can help improve your mood, stress levels, pain, and more. As you age, your body requires different care, and a massage therapist will factor in your health needs prior to your massage.
A geriatric massage may be shorter than a typical massage and use special manipulations specific to your health history and current needs.
Massage therapy is not covered by Medicare parts A and B, so you’ll likely need to pay out of pocket for these services.