Elderly woman – in her 70s – hadn’t spoken in years. The nursing home staff figured she had lost the ability. But after 2 silent years of regular massage sessions, massage therapist Bill heard a soft voice utter: “That feels good. Regular massages has improved quality of life for many older, not-so-mobile clients. In addition to boosting circulation, easing stress and relieving aches and pains, all important physiologically for people who don’t move around much, massage bestows a basic human need the elderly often go without: touch. “Just like at the beginning of life, when you’re not touched, you don’t thrive,” said Bill, who works with older people who are isolated in their homes or living in institutionalized care. While extensive research has shown massaging infants benefits their development, particularly in premature babies, few studies have explored the impact of massage on the elderly. One study, published in 1998 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, found elderly people who massaged infants experienced less stress, improved mood and fewer trips to the doctor. Researchers believe massage, and touch generally, can strengthen the immune system by stimulating pressure receptors under the skin, which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol, the chief culprit in killing natural disease-fighting cells, said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Without touch, studies on monkeys have shown, there’s a rise in aggression. But elderly people, who could use the immune-boosting benefits of touch the most, are getting it the least. “There’s a lot of isolation involved when you’re no longer working or driving,” Bill continues “There are lots of people who are alone, whose grandchildren are grown and aren’t in town to give them a hug” Some assisted-living facilities arrange for massage therapists for their residents, but it’s “not something that’s being incorporated as much as it should be or could be,” Family members and friends can provide the touch that’s lacking. Because aged skin gets thin and bruises easily, any massage administered to the elderly must be gentle; sometimes all it takes is barely caressing a person’s skin, Cortes said. “We do know that just the touching of a person to another person, just the warmness, creates a sense of calmness and security,” Bill said. More than just chatting, playing games or even holding hands, giving focused, attentive touch establishes an intimate, nurturing bond that expresses caring. He has seen it ease the symptoms of touch deprivation, such as grouchiness, irritability and a lack of interest in life and people. In people with dementia, she said, it helps ground them in physical reality. “For me the miraculous part is drawing a person out of his shell,” Bill said. “Because otherwise they just curl into a little ball, and their skin dries up, their mind dries up.” Giving a body massage Licensed massage therapist offered four exercises a lay person can do on an older, not-so-mobile loved one. But remember, you’re not aiming to give the knot-grinding, tension-relieving massage younger people seek. Aging skin is thin and prone to tearing and bruising, so err on the side of very gentle. A 20-to 30-minute session one to three times per week is sufficient. Arms and legs: Wrap both hands around the person’s wrist, and gently compress and release. Work your way up the arm with the same compress-and-release motion. Do the same for the legs, starting at the ankle and moving upward. Always massage toward the heart. Hands: Using your thumbs, massage the palms of the hands with circular strokes. Work your way up each finger with the squeeze-and-release motion mentioned above. Don’t massage the top of the hand, as that skin is particularly thin. And don’t pull the fingers, as that can hurt people with osteoporosis. Feet: Using your thumbs, massage the soles of the feet in an outward circular motion. This helps loosen up the connective tissue and widen the plantar surface, which can tighten when people don’t walk much. Back and shoulders: Place the palm of your hand in the sacrum area at the base of the spine, and make circles on the muscles on either side of the spine (don’t massage bone), working your way up to the shoulders. If your loved one is seated, have them lean forward slightly, with a pillow in his lap. If you have a loved one and he or she are older. even in a bed for a period of time.
Please contact Philadelphia massage studio at 525 South 4Th Street, Philadelphia PA, 19147 USA. Contact info is 267-694-9360 ask for Bill. www.philadelphiamassagestudio.com Blocks to convention center, reading terminal, best western, embassy suites, hannamen hospital, lowes hotel and market st.