Senior Massage Techniques

by MassageJoy - March 16, 2019

We all have family members who are over 65 and performing senior or geriatric massage can be one of the most rewarding experiences. You are not only able to build a strong bond with the seniors but also learn about their life experiences in a comfortable and trusting situation.

So, what are the senior massage techniques you can try today? Senior massage techniques involve the basic massage techniques of kneading, friction and gliding but are performed in special positions that are convenient for the seniors. The 3 basic senior massage techniques are:

  • Senior chair massage for shoulders
  • Senior foot massage on the bed
  • Senior back massage

After reading this article till the end you will be able to perform senior massage on your senior family members. I will also show you the basic precautions you should take when performing a senior massage. If you have never given a massage to your senior family members, I invite you to use the techniques taught in this article to establish a new and powerful connection with your senior family members using massage therapy.

Senior Massage Techniques

There is a good chance you know someone or have a family member over the age of 65. It is estimated that 8.5% of the world’s population consists of people over the age of 65. One of the several challenges faced by seniors is the issue of loneliness. Loneliness not only affects seniors but people from every walks of life, but the issue is more severe in seniors over the age of 65.

Seniors prefer massage therapy not just for the health benefits but also for the social benefits. Due to this, the senior massage techniques listed here are designed so that you can perform them on your senior family members. Understand that massaging seniors not only has health benefits for them but also greatly improves their quality of life as massage is seen as a social activity by lonely seniors.

Senior Chair Massage For Shoulders

Typically massage is performed on a massage table or a special massage chair. But for some seniors it is not advisable to lie face down on a massage table. Due to this the chair massage suggested here can be performed on a normal chair in which the senior sits or a wheelchair. The chair should give you access to the back, neck, shoulders, head, arms and hands of the senior.

Senior massage for shoulders
Senior Chair Massage For Shoulders
  • Have the senior sit on the chair
  • Have the chair in front of a table and place a pillow between the table and the chest of the senior so that they can lean on the pillow if needed
  • Begin the massage by first asking the senior to take in few deep breaths
  • Stand behind the chair and begin massaging the shoulders
  • You will be using the kneading technique to massage the shoulders
  • In this technique place both your hands on one shoulder
  • Grab the shoulder between your fingers and thumb
  • The aim is to lightly grab the skin and muscle using your fingers and thumb and then gently lift upwards. Apply minimal pressure when you begin
  • Perform this kneading technique for 20-30 seconds and then move along the length of the shoulder to massage the entire shoulder

Senior Foot Massage On Bed

Massaging the feet and hands of a senior can be very beneficial, especially if they have arthritis. This is also a great position to enhance the social aspect of massage for seniors. You will often find the seniors opening up in this position and sharing their story and experiences with you.

Senior Foot Massage
Senior Foot Massage
  • Ask if you can remove their socks or if they prefer to do it themselves
  • Have them then lie face up on the bed
  • Elevate their head with a pillow if they are having trouble lying flat on the bed
  • Sit down on the bed next to them and place one of their feet on your lap
  • You can use lotion or some oil for this method. If you have access to aromatherapy oils or a blend of essential oils then use it
  • Put a tiny bit of oil on your hands and rub it on the feet of the senior for 10-20 seconds till they are accustomed to your touch
  • Then utilize the kneading technique to massage the foot
  • In this technique you will place your hand on the foot and grab the skin and underlying muscle between your fingers and thumb and lift
  • Do this for 10-20 seconds and move along the foot in a circular motion

Senior Back Massage

For seniors, lying on their stomach for a back massage is painful and sometimes not even possible. Lying on their side is a great alternative. This position will be comfortable for the senior and will also give you full access to the back of the senior.

Senior Back Massage
Senior Back Massage
  • Ask the senior which side they prefer lying on and have them lie on the bed on their preferred side
  • For the back massage, you can use a lotion, oil or aromatherapy oils. Using a blend of relaxing essential oils such as lavender or geranium works great
  • Add a tiny bit of oil or lotion to your hands
  • Apply the oil on the back and spend 10-20 seconds spreading it around giving the senior the chance to get accustomed to your touch
  • Slowly glide your hands up and down their back, but avoid the spine
  • Now use the friction technique in a circular motion on the back
  • For the friction technique clench your fists and place them with the knuckles on the back on either side of the spine
  • Start at the bottom of the back
  • Push out your thumb so that it is pressing into the back
  • Now push your clenched fist up the back on either side of the spine
  • Make sure the thumb is pressing into the back muscles as you glide up the back
  • Make sure to avoid the spine
  • Once you reach the base of the neck lift up your hands and begin again at the bottom of the back
  • Once you have done this for a few minutes perform the same technique all over the back in a circular motion

Senior Massage Precautions

There are some key precautions to consider when massaging seniors. If your senior family member has serious medical conditions or even mild conditions then it goes without saying avoid giving massage and use the services of a professional, qualified massage therapist.

If someone has a specific condition like knee pain, open sores, osteoporosis or other specific needs please only use the services of a professional massage therapist. Alternately you can also consult your doctor to identify if a simple home massage using basic techniques is safe.

It is important to understand that older people find it difficult to maintain certain positions, for example, it is difficult for them to lie on their stomach. The best positions for massage for seniors are face-up, lying on their side or sitting in a chair.

If the senior is frail then 30-40 minutes is more than sufficient for a massage. If they are stronger and want a longer massage then do not exceed 60 minutes ideally.

The skin of seniors tends to get dry so try to use a good blend of relaxing essential oils and aromatherapy oils. Avoid massaging without a massage gel, lotion or oil.

If the senior has been bedridden for a period of time you need to consider the possibility that massage can dislodge blood clots which can lead to critical health issues

If the senior is requesting a professional massage then only choose a relaxing or Swedish massage and avoid modalities like Deep Tissue massage or Sports massage as you can imagine these modalities deliver a lot of power and depth.

Ensure the sessions are shorter, no longer than 30 minutes ideally. And only use the positions listed here as these are “safe” position

Related Questions

Is massage good for the elderly? Massage can be good for the elderly, delivering the benefits of improved circulation and releasing toxins. However, in some cases, it can be life-threatening. For e.g., if massage dislodges a blood clot it can lead to a critical emergency. Always consult a doctor or massage therapist before massaging the elderly