Complementary Therapies For Over 50s

As both a complementary therapist and an “over 50” myself, I take a special interest in the treatment of this age group. But studies show that as people get older they are less likely to use complementary therapies. Here I take a look at why over 50s may find it harder to have faith in complementary medicine. I list the top 5 complementary therapies for over 50s and how they can really help.

Complementary or Conventional Medicine?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows that when we are over 50 we seek medical help more with physical than mental or emotional problems. This doesn’t mean that older adults suffer less from stress, anxiety or depression. But as we get older we generally develop more physical illnesses and many of us suffer from chronic pain. In such situations, our mental well-being tends to be put aside in favour of treating the physical conditions. And as complementary therapies are often seen mainly as a way of helping our mental health, too many of us ignore them.

Studies also show that we senior adults tend to seek help with just one medical problem, even though we might be suffering from several. Similarly, doctors are usually taught to focus on one or two symptoms at a time and discard the rest. They view each medical problem as a separate issue, rather than looking at the whole person. That’s why most people I know who are 60+ years (and many in their 50s) take a whole range of medicines each day. They have different tablets for blood pressure, indigestion, breathlessness, gout, UTIs, etc. Some have creams for rashes caused by the tablets, and other medicines to reduce the side effects of the first ones! So is it any wonder that some over 50s find it hard to accept the idea of treatments that can help many or all of their medical problems together? I mean, it’s got to be too good to be true, hasn’t it?

Effects of Aging on Our Health

As we get older, we may feel as if our bodies are beginning to wear out. And to some extent, that’s true. It’s because the cells in our body don’t regenerate as quickly or easily as they used to. This can lead to a range of age-related conditions, particularly involving muscles, joints and nerves. Just think about how many miles we have walked or run in our lives so far.  Our poor bones and muscles have absorbed the inpact over and over again.

healthy middle-aged man jogging

Medical Issues in Over 50s

In the UK, the most common medical problems in the 50+ age group include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Joint problems
  • Menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Weakness or numbness in feet/hands (neuropathy)

Recommended Therapies for Over 50s

Reflexology

Reflexology is a wonderful therapy for over 50s. By the time we get into our 50s, our feet and hands are feeling the effects of all the work they have done over the years. Many of us suffer from arthritis in our fingers, problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome in our wrists, and “restless leg syndrome” or swollen ankles in our lower limbs. Reflexology can improve circulation and nerve conduction in hands and feet, and helps to clear toxins which can get drawn down into the feet through gravity. And the really wonderful thing is that, through reflex points in the hands and feet, reflexology can also help other parts of the body.

 

Reiki

Reiki is a gentle therapy in which the therapist places his/her hands on the client and transfers healing energy into their body. People find Reiki treatments to be extremely calming and often say that they can feel heat or tingling as the Reiki energy passes into their body. Many people also find that Reiki can help to ease pain and can encourage wounds to heal more quickly. This makes it particularly suitable for people in their 70s and above. Older people bruise more easily and heal less quickly, so Reiki can be useful after bumps, falls and even after operations. Also, lots of us find it more difficult to sleep as we get older, and the calming and soothing effect of Reiki can help tackle insomnia.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy uses nature’s own medicines (such as plants and minerals) instead of harmful drugs. One of the main principles of homeopathy is to use the tiniest amount of a substance that is needed to ease your symptoms. And homeopathy certainly uses tiny amounts! They are diluted over and over again. In fact, it is all the dilution and vibration that the medicines go through that really energises and activates them. Homeopathic remedies are safe for everybody and – very important for older people – don’t interfere with any regular medication. Many medical problems are treated with homeopathy worldwide, including diabetes, IBS, UTIs, allergies, menopause, memory problems.

Seated Massage

Massage is probably the most popular of all complementary therapies. But as we get older, many of us find it difficult to climb onto a massage couch. It can be uncomfortable to lie down in one position for very long. And let’s face it, quite a few of us feel embarrassed about taking off most of our clothes in front of somebody else. Well, no worries here. With my Seated Massage you don’t have to get onto a couch; you sit on a specially designed chair instead. And the massage is done through light clothing, so there’s no undressing either. People over 50 often suffer from pain in the back, neck and shoulders (including “frozen shoulder”) and seated massage is wonderful for easing tension and increasing flexibility in these areas.

Aromatherapy

Like homeopathy, aromatherapy uses nature’s own medicines. But as the name suggests, it is the aromatic qualities of the substance that are important in this therapy. Smell is one of the most important ways that both animals and humans communicate with each other. Babies respond to the natural smell of their mother or father. When a parent or carer holds them close, they feel safe and secure. Many of us love to smell flowers or cut grass and find that the smell seems to lift our mood. In Aromatherapy, plant oils are used to have a similar effect. Some oils can make us feel relaxed, others can stimulate us and increase our energy.

How I Treat Myself with Complementary Therapies

Let me explain here that, at the time of writing this, I am 67 years old. And yes, I get aches and pains in my back and knees sometimes. (And my hips complained for about 3 days after a particularly lively session of disco dancing.) But apart from a VERY occasional ibuprofen – maybe a couple of times a year – I don’t use drugs. Of course I can’t prevent myself from getting older; I know I’ve got less physical strength than I had a few years ago. However, I’m remarkably healthy for my age. Even when friends or family go down with a cold or flu, I always seem to avoid it. That certainly wasn’t the case before I decided I must have “a dose of my own medicine”. In fact it was a really crippling bout of flu that encouraged me to start giving myself the same level of care and attention I give to clients. I realised that I was helping other people with their health but ignoring my own. I now give myself regular reflexology and Reiki treatments and use homeopathy to stop any infections from developing, instead of just treating them after they do.