A Routine for Senior Massage
Your routine will change according to the person you are working on. However, you can design a blueprint that you may adjust as needed. Consider styling a shorter session, at least initially. Be aware that an elderly person may not be able to lie in one position for too long at a time. And you may need to provide extra support with certain positions.
Also ask how much clothing the receiver wishes to keep on, if any. Some people, no matter what age, prefer to receive massage through the cover, while others feel very comfortable completely in the buff. Use oil that is easily absorbed by the skin and remember to ask whether your massage partner prefers scented or not. Finally, make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable for the receiver.
Back and Shoulder Massage
If the receiver decides that she would like you to work the back and shoulders, and she can lie facedown for a short period of time, help her into a position that works best for her. Place pillows in areas that need extra support, and cover the recipient with a flannel sheet. Make the receiver as comfortable as possible, and remember to check in to see if she needs to move. Often a short time spent working on the back is as much as your elder recipient can tolerate in that position.
Rest both your hands on the receiver's covered back for a moment. Then pull back the cover, tuck it around the waist, and apply oil with a gentle but firm effleurage stroke on the back, feeling for tension as you glide from the waist to the shoulders and back again. Your hands and fingers will tell you where to hold and press after you finish applying the oil. Glide along the shoulders and the backs of the arms, moving with a steady, even rhythm.
If your receiver is experiencing muscle spasms do not massage that area. A muscle spasm is a quick, involuntary contraction often due to the irritation of the nerves that assist the muscle. Use another form of relaxation, such as reflexology or Reiki, until the spasms have been corrected.
Return to the areas of tension and gently petrissage between the shoulder blades and around the neck. Remember to use steady, even pressure without digging, and be aware of any fragile areas. Constantly check with the receiver to make sure your pressure is fine. You may be surprised to learn the receiver wants you to press more firmly. Knead along the shoulders and then glide over the entire area again.
Moving On to the Arms and Legs
Remove any pillows or bolsters from under the legs before helping your receiver turn over onto her back. Be supportive; you may have to gently help the recipient up while keeping the drape tucked in for privacy. Carefully assist in any way your receiver needs and then help her to reposition.
Once the supports are back under the legs and perhaps under the neck and shoulders, too, effleurage one leg with both your hands. Use firm gliding strokes from the ankle to the knee and then from the knee to the hip. Repeat at least twice before gently kneading the hip area. Again let your fingers be your eyes as you feel where the tension is, while listening to the receiver as well. Glide again over the entire leg and repeat the sequence on the other leg.
Pay attention to the person you are working on as you continue to stay in touch, assessing if the receiver needs to turn or get up. Alter your techniques to fit the body you are working on, and become aware of any limitations.
Work the arms with the same strokes. Start with one arm and effleurage with both your hands from the wrist to the elbow and then from the elbow to the shoulder, using firm gliding movements. Repeat on the other arm. Remember to stroke the joints with a feathering movement. Do not apply pressure. Then knead in the shoulder areas with both hands, using extra caution as you approach the neck. Do not apply any massage to the center of the neck as this area is contraindicated. Gently feather off the shoulders and move to the head.
Strokes for the Face and Head
Stand behind the receiver and gently stroke up the face with both hands. Move from the chin, over the cheeks, and pull off at the forehead. Use circular kneading movements over the entire face, always moving up toward the forehead. Circle your fingers in at the jaw, easing tension that may accumulate in that region. Use feather strokes up the chest, along the sides of the neck, and over the face. Rest your hands, palms flat, over the eyes and hold still.
As you age you may find that you feel and function differently. You may feel stiff in the morning, taking a bit more time to begin your day. You can choose to make the most of this by making this the time to practice some of the relaxation exercises or self-massage techniques you have learned. This will help you work through the stiffness that your muscles and joints may be experiencing.
Using shampoo strokes work the entire top and back of the head, gently lifting the head so you can work the back of the scalp. Rest the head in your hands with your fingertips gently pressing in at the base of the skull. Hold here and breathe. Ask your receiver to breathe with you, slowly and gently.
Carefully remove your hands, check to make sure the recipient is fine, and go wash your hands. This gives the receiver time to relax and rest. When you return help the receiver off the table. Remember that elders tend to move a bit slower, so pace your movements with the receiver's. Remember to include some social time at the end of the massage, because talking with the elderly is just as important as your touch.