Elders Benefit from a Healing Touch

By Suzanne Kates, LMT

Article first appeared in “Senior Care”a supplement to Ithaca Child, The Paper for Parents, Winter 2009 edition. Published by Finger Lakes Family, Inc., Jim Graney

Elders. Senior Citizens. The aging. Older folks. Retirees. These terms all describe the people my massage practice is geared to. I'd like to tell you why I have chosen to call my therapeutic bodywork practice, “SageWork – Massage & Reiki for Elders.” I have included “Elders” and “Sage” in my business name because to me, these words connote wisdom and experience. I love this definition of elders from Barry Barkan, founder of the Live Oak Project:

An Elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still filled with potential, and whose life continues to have within it promise for and connection to the future. An Elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure, and their birthright to these remains intact. Moreover, an Elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from long-life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.

Often it is an Elder who guides a community. Far too often the very people who have given so much of themselves are the ones who are forgotten as they age. Their giving has allowed the rest of us to have the quality of life we enjoy. I wish to honor these people. It is very difficult for me to accept that many are treated as if they no longer count as community members.

Dr. William Thomas, author of What are Old People for? and founder of the Eden Alternative, has opened my eyes to a different way to be with the elders in my community. I saw that I can be in a care partnership with them and their family, friends, neighbors or other caregivers. The care partnership promotes a culture of meaningful care that does not see the needs of caregivers as separate from the needs of care receivers, but rather advocates for the well being of the whole care partnership. Working together, empowered care partner teams help to ensure the independence, dignity and continued growth of our elder care partners, working to eliminate loneliness, helplessness, and boredom for everyone on the team. As a care partner and a massage therapist I can offer elders and others on the team relaxation and increased comfort and ease from sore, tight muscles as well as lending an ear to hear them and be present with them.

As with the rest of the age groups in the population, there are quite a variety of conditions in which elders may be living. Some of them will be quite advanced in age, perhaps with medical challenges. Some will be lonely and isolated. Some of the elders I massage live independently, are robust and aching from all the activity they participate in. Some live in long term care homes. Some know only the routine touch of activities of daily living. Still others do most self care routines on their own. Some are close to dying.

Because elders’ conditions vary so much, I take great care to tailor the massage each person receives to his or her specific needs. But nearly all elders (and the rest of their care partner team) will get a lot of benefit from massage. These benefits include:

Better blood and lymph circulation
Increased joint mobility
Reduced muscle tension
Relief from sore muscles
Greater immune system capability
Healthier skin

What I would like to see is elders living their lives as fully as possible. I would like them to know that they are cared for and that they still count as people in the community, and to know that they have something to offer the other members of the care partner team. I believe that touch combined with compassion can convey all of these.

My own parents died when I was 18 and 28. Now as my own retirement years approach, I've been without the benefit of elders close to me for far too long. So the work I do is for myself as well as for the elders. I want to be moved by the past experiences of their lives that they are willing to share with me. And I want to share the moments we have to be in each other's company in present time.

To make an appointment for yourself or for a loved one, please contact Suzanne Kates, owner of SageWork, at 607-342-3892.

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