Last week I wrote about the dramatic change in America’s population that is taking place right now, one in which one in five people will be over the age of 60 by 2020 – almost doubling the amount of the elderly that currently live in America!
As I wrote in concluding my entry last week, given this dramatic population shift, it would seem like a slam-dunk to say that there is a burgeoning field of geriatric massage in America. However, it is difficult to find a lot of data to substantiate this claim.
On the one hand, there are currently at least 60 schools in America offering geriatric massage training and there are at least 19 hospitals in America offering geriatric massage as one of their programs for patient therapy. But, on the other hand, many insurance policies will not cover geriatric unless there is a specific circumstance to warrant it. For example, insurance plans will usually cover massage therapy sessions if the patient is recovering from a car or work-related accident, or if a physical therapist or physician specifically prescribes it. But they will not cover it in order to improve their client’s sense of well-being, or help with slipping capabilities of flexibility and balance, symptoms from which senior citizens often suffer.
Thus, geriatric massage suffers from a common problem in the field of massage therapy: The idea that massage is an alternative therapy and not a main one. There are many articles and studies already out there showing the effectiveness of geriatric massage therapy in treating common elderly ailments (such as chronic pain, bad posture, poor muscle tone, inability to sleep, and feelings of isolation) as well as improving the elderly’s general sense of well being. But until this becomes common knowledge and geriatric massage starts to be prescribed more regularly (and covered by more health plans) the field may end up being stunted and may grow at a slower rate than population trends would indicate. A bad thing for massage therapists, but an even worse thing for our nation’s senior citizens.