At the weekend I taught at the Oxford School of Sports Massage. I was teaching a keen and engaged group of students, working towards their Level 5 Diploma in Soft Tissue Therapy. The students were early on in their course and preparing for their first of 3 practical assessments.
I noticed the students ask “what about older people?” on 3 separate occasions with regards to the techniques they were learning. And it got me thinking… what ABOUT the older people?!?!
This blog post aims to explore the concept of ageing and how we view our older clients at Reset Sports Massage.
Candles On The Cake
In general, we tend to think of our age as defined by how many birthdays we have seen. When my student asked me “what about the older people?” I presumed she meant those in their 70s and above. However, ask any 4-year-old how old they think is “old” and I bet they will give you a not-so-encouraging answer of around 20!
Measuring age by the years that have passed since our birth is known as our chronological age. It can give us a rough idea of what a person’s lifestyle or health MIGHT be like. But no two 84 year olds will have the exact same physical or mental capabilities. The number of years that 84 year old has been alive does not change, no matter how active or frail they may be. Moreover, the threshold for gaining membership to the “older person” category is subjective.
One interesting experiment was conducted by Ellen Langer in 1979. She asked a group of older men to live in accommodation staged as if it was 1959 for 1 week. The men had to try to live as they had 20 years ago. No one treated them as old men. They made their own meals and carried their own shopping. They immersed themselves into the 1950s, discussing historical events as if it were present day news.
The men were compared to a control group who had merely reminisced on life 20 years ago. Those who had lived as their younger selves made improvements in gait, dexterity, physical strength, posture, memory, cognition, and even hearing and vision!
Although the experiment received much criticism, it reinforces the idea of mind over matter. These men didn’t have a choice but to look after themselves, so they did. They also did not have the influence of society and their surroundings telling them “you can’t” or “you’re too old”.
Nature or Nurture?
Another definition of ageing relates to the biological age. Physiologically, ageing is the gradual deterioration of cells over time. This can have wide reaching effects, including cognitive decline, aesthetic changes, and loss of organ function.
Gerontologists (age scientists) consider biological ageing under two lights – primary ageing, and secondary ageing. Primary ageing is essentially “predetermined”. It is the result of the limit on cellular longevity. Regardless of the lifestyle, the cells will not live forever. On the other hand, secondary ageing is influenced by environmental and lifestyle factors. It could be negative, such as the cumulative effect of air pollution, malnutrition, and disease. Or it could be positive – the accumulated impact of good diet, social/mental stimulation, and physical activity.
Secondary ageing explains the variability between humans of the same age. For this reason, it may not be useful to consider older people as a homogenous group – especially as a therapist or exercise instructor.
So What Instead?
It is part of the Reset Sports Massage values to treat each person as an individual. Our clients with a few more candles on their cake may be more likely to experience conditions such as arthritis. It is definitely important to our therapists/instructors to check your medical history to make sure the treatment/exercise is suitable and safe. But we take this approach regardless of age. It’s important to us not to see age as a barrier or an excuse!
In our Pilates 1:1 sessions we aim to assess markers such as mobility, flexibility, strength, stability, balance, and coordination. We then choose exercises to suit your body based on what we find. Our instructors are well versed on which exercises are appropriate for common conditions that affect the older population, such as osteoporosis and joint replacements.
We also like to get to know about our clients lifestyle and practice exercises that will compliment hobbies. For example, if you are a gardener we might practice moving from your hips and knees rather than the back. Many of our older clients enjoy playing with their grandchildren, so we work on getting up and down from the floor safely.
Wrinkles Indicate Where The Smiles Have Been
In summary, we treat all of our clients as individuals at Reset Sports Massage. Ageing can come with difficulties for some, but we encourage our clients to look past this and focus on what they CAN do. We start from there and practice with playfulness and curiosity to keep adding to that list. We thoroughly enjoy working with our older clients and don’t see age as a limit!
If you’d like to work with us (or know an older person who would) you can book by clicking here.