On September the 18th the World Reflexology Week starts, raising awareness of reflexology and its practice. Many older people have benefitted from the practice of reflexology, which has found great success in treating a myriad of conditions that they suffer on a day-to-day basis.
This is important, as reflexology is often misunderstood by those unfamiliar with the practice. So, to help do our own part in raising awareness about it, here’s a brief summary of what reflexology is and how it can benefit the health and recovery of the elderly.
What is reflexology?
Reflexology is a non-intrusive practice whereby pressure points in the hands, feet, outer ears and face are gently massaged to relax and soothe the body. It’s a form of medicine that has very ancient roots. Its first instances can be found as far back as Ancient China and Egypt, and recent studies have found links between its use and positive effects on the body.
Because it’s only used on the extremities, older people can receive it even if they’re sat or laying down. This makes it very relaxing for those receiving it. It’s a preventive and management practice, used for those who suffer from conditions such as arthritis or rheumatism.
It’s important to note that reflexology is not a cure-all, nor does it claim to be as such. Rather it’s an effective supplement to be used alongside other procedures to promote faster recovery.
Physical benefits of reflexology for older people
Due to the limited amount of time that they spend on their feet, seniors benefit more from reflexology than any other group. Receiving treatment in this way can be used to manage many conditions, including:
By stimulating the limbs and extremities, reflexology also improves circulation through the limbs, easing stiffness and aches in the joints of toes and fingers. Further the improved health of the extremities also promotes better balance and coordination in older people, which leads to less frequent falls and stumbles. This in turn means less time spent in hospital recovering from them.
Another positive aspect is that reflexology allows seniors greater independence, as they gain more confidence and strength in their day-to-day movements and activities.
Mental and emotional benefits of reflexology
The easing of pain and aches in the joints, as well as improved circulation and calmed nerve endings, allows for better relaxation. These reduces stress and anxiety, promoting mental wellness and better sleep habits. As such, reflexology is great for improving or preventing cognitive diseases and deterioration. The overall mood of older people is improved as well.
The improved sleep means less dozing during the day, which allows for more time for other activities in the afternoon. The mental stimulus provides fuel for greater cognitive activity, further preventing or reducing conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
An often-overlooked benefit from reflexology is that it’s a very hands-on and connective practice. Human touch, even in situations such as these, have positive impacts on people’s mental health.
It can be frustrating and lonely as people get older, and seniors frequently leave their reflexology sessions in a greater state of calm and peace of mind. It’s all too easy these days to discount the benefits of mental wellness, but by promoting a healthier state of mind, older people find it easier to manage and recover from debilitating conditions and illnesses.
Adapting reflexology for seniors
Because seniors often have difficulties keeping on their feet for too long, reflexology sessions usually take place with them sat or laying down. If it’s taking place at home, have them recline on their favourite chair or recliner. If they’re being brought into a clinic, allow them to bring a blanket or a cushion for added comfort.
Expert reflexologists will also try and promote independence and activity among older patients. As part of the reflexology session, older people are often taught a series of simple exercises and techniques they can do themselves to alleviate certain symptoms. This promotes greater self-confidence and allows them to go about their daily activities with less anxiety.
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You may also like our article about the benefits of yoga for older people.