I have found that when I tell people I do senior massage, they immediately equate “senior” with “frail old person”. Sometimes people think I’m brave to work with this population and they don’t know that they’d feel comfortable doing it. What I have experienced, however, is that senior does not mean old and frail. Many seniors are active and in excellent health.
So, what is a senior citizen? The term senior citizen seems to have various meanings depending on the country you are in and who you are talking to.
I think a good generalization is that a senior citizen is anyone who is 60 years or older. Notice that nothing is said about the general health of that person. It is just an age range.
Other terms that are used are geriatric and elderly and this is where some of the confusion comes in. Geriatric and elderly both deal with an older person is who not as active and is more frail. Often, elderly is the step before geriatric. In this case, we’re not talking about a specific age, but a health condition. So, a senior citizen is not necessarily geriatric or elderly.
In my practice I work in a 55 and older community, so I have access to a wide range of seniors who range from hale and hardy to frail. I have 70 year old clients who need and look for a firm, deep massage to help work out their aches, pains, and muscular problems. I also have clients in their 70s who need a much lighter touch and are grateful for the Swedish, circulatory work I perform.
As people get older, certain changes do happen to their bodies. They can lose some flexibility and they may have had knee or hip replacements. They might have a pacemaker. Their skin might be thinner and their bones more brittle. Some older clients may not be able to lie down for a long period of time (or at all) on your table. However, there are older adults who are still in wonderful condition and you would think they are much younger than they really are. So, when you are working with seniors you must take into account their individual needs. You cannot assume that just because someone is in the age range of a senior he or she must be treated with kid gloves.
So, when you are working with seniors, you may be working with people who aren’t much different from someone who is 30 or 40 years old. Or, you may be working with someone who mostly fits the geriatric definition. Or anywhere in between. If you keep in mind that each person’s needs are different and you adjust your technique to work with the person who is on your table, you should have no problem massaging senior citizens.