Americans are getting older. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of the U.S. population aged 65 years is projected to increase from 12.4 percent (in 2000, the latest year statistics are available) to 19.6 percent in 2030; the number of persons over 65 years is expected to double from 35 million to 71 million in 2030; and the number of persons aged more than 80 years is expected to grow from 9.3 million in 2000 to 19.5 million in 2030.

What this means to massage students is that geriatric massage is a potentially rewarding specialization.

Once basic massage education is completed, many massage therapists choose to specialize, in either a specific type of bodywork or with a specific type of clientele. With geriatric massage, you’ll specialize in both the technique and the type of person you massage.

The term “geriatric” means “a branch of medicine that deals with the problems and diseases of old age and aging people,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Although massage isn’t a branch of medicine, geriatric massage is formulated to be appropriate for the special needs and contraindications associated with massage for the elderly, such as:

• Older people often have extremely thin skin that can be easily bruised or torn. For that reason, geriatric massage strokes are very gentle and employ light pressure.

• Isolated elderly—those who live alone or who are confined to nursing homes, are often in dire need of human touch. For them, a back- or neck-rub, along with some kind words, might be all the massage they want or need.

• The older generation may have a more demure attitude toward massage than do younger people. A clothed, seated massage or a simple hand-massage is often the most appropriate type of touch for them.

Specialized training in geriatric massage is necessary, in order to work with this clientele. Your massage school might offer a certification course or CEU classes in geriatric massage. You can also input the term “geriatric massage training” into an online search engine to locate classes in your area.

—Karen Menehan

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