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Old age is not for sissies. Just ask any of my elderly clients. One client recently said, "I don't know who decided to call these the Golden Years."

According to the Census Bureau, in the year 2000, 35 million people 65 years of age and older, were counted in the United States. By 2020, one in five Americans will be over the age of 60.

As they age, elders may notice that everything is slowing down. Things just don't work like they used to. Joints become worn, and they may suffer from painful conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis.

They may have balance difficulties or circulation problems. Decreased mobility contributes to poor circulation and a gradual loss of muscular strength and tone. Seniors are faced with other stresses like retirement, relocation and the loss of their spouse. Some seniors complain of feeling isolated or alone.

These issues in addition to health problems requiring medical attention and often lead to depression.

Some lose their independence when they can no longer drive a car, for instance. They don't like to be dependent on others, which increases their stress levels. Increased stress affects the body by causing muscle tightness, tension, and restricted energy flow. Sometimes stress causes headaches, backaches, stiff necks, cold hands and feet. Physical stress tends to produce more emotional stress, setting up an endless cycle.

It is important to note that not all seniors suffer from these problems. That would help to perpetuate some of the myths, associated with the elderly - that they are too shy about their bodies, or are too frail to receive a massage. While that may be true for some, in the United States people are living longer and better. Many of my elderly clients are in great shape, both physically and mentally. Some of the clients that I treat who are in there 70s are in better physical shape than people 20 years younger.

Taking all of these things into account, many people are surprised to hear that I have many elderly clients who receive therapeutic massage, most on a regular basis.

Massage therapy for seniors can have many positive effects.

It is well known for its ability to reduce muscular tension, relieve aches and pains, increase circulation and induce a relaxation response in the body. This is especially true for the elderly. It helps their breathing, lowers blood pressure, and stimulates lymph flow.

After receiving a massage session, many seniors will tell me how much better they slept that evening. Massage can help relieve anxiety, worry, and provide comfort to them.

Some clients may feel uncomfortable or awkward at first, and I will often suggest that they bring a family member to be present with them in the room when they have their initial massage session. (Many have taken me up on this offer.) Geriatric massage sessions are generally shorter in length, and tailored to the needs of each client. Older clients face some challenges that younger ones take for granted, right down to getting on and off the massage table, but careful massage can help provide the elderly with relief of many of the issues they face, and enable seniors to extend the vitality in their lives.

Talk to your massage therapist, and they will be happy to answer any questions that you have concerning this type of massage. I encourage you to try this wonder therapy.

Providing massage to the "Greatest Generation" has been a privilege I continue to enjoy.

Debbie Cleveland is a licensed massage therapist at Discovery Massage Therapy. She can be reached at 689-1007

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