19/09/2018

Reflexology and Older People

Helpline’s mission has always been to help older adults who wish to remain living independently in their own homes. The pendant alarms and other services we provide are a great way to keep safe and give yourself and family peace of mind.

Those living independently, with or without pendant alarms, can benefit from a range of holistic treatments to improve their quality of life. Such treatments can help prevent falls and accidents by improving wellbeing, mood, confidence and balance. One treatment that can be of help to some older people is Reflexology. Today we welcome Lynne Booth, a renowned reflexologist, tutor and author, to talk about the ways her specialism can be of help.

Reflexology: natural ways of supporting the body 

Reflexology can offer older people some positive support to help maintain and improve health now that many people have a life expectancy of 30 plus years from when they retire. The sobering fact is that whilst the tremendous advances in medical science can lead to increased life expectancy, that does not mean disability-free life expectancy, and a longer lifespan may include a decade or more of degenerative disease and chronic ill health.  Reflexology has a valuable role to play in supporting good health for an ageing population and there is no doubt that the reality of the silver tsunami of older people, i.e. the baby boomers following the Second World War, presents a considerable challenge that must be confronted not just by government, but by all of society. It is important to register that the process of aging does not always have to be a negative decline and that the body still has many resources to implement some regeneration given a multi-faceted approach to holistic care, which includes reflexology.

Reflexology is an ancient healing science whose origins go back 5000 years to China and Egypt. It has gained great popularity in the past 30 years as a non-invasive gentle healing therapy. Pressure points on the hands and feet called reflexes, which represent various parts of the body, are lightly stimulated to help the body to heal itself through a natural healing response.  Reflexology is taught worldwide to diploma level and above and is practiced by qualified reflexologists in hospitals, hospices, clinics and doctors' surgeries as well as in private practice and complementary health centres. 

Forms of reflexology reached Europe in the Dark Ages after Marco Polo opened up the Silk Routes in the 13th century and were used both by the aristocracy and peasants as a pressure point therapy on the hands and feet. By the late 19th century Zone Therapy and other forms of reflexology were used only by the medical profession until the 1930's when a physiotherapist in the USA called Eunice Ingham developed the zone and pressure point therapy as we know it today and she renamed these revised techniques, Reflexology.

Old age can sometimes be a time of chronic ill-health and debility but there are natural ways through reflexology to help support the body

Reflexology is also used extensively by non-professionals who have learnt the rudiments of reflexology which they can successfully offer to family and friends. People of all ages can be taught to give themselves self-help hand reflexology to help relaxation and in turn, give the body a sense of wellbeing.  Reflexologists never claim to diagnose or treat a specific illness but can support persons with all health conditions including joint issues, broken night’s sleep, digestive issues and general tension. A video link on my website gives simple self-help hand reflexology techniques to Release Stress and Tension. There is also an illustrated instruction sheet to print off. See home page of www.boothvrt.com and scroll down.

Many older people are, of course, in very good physical condition and make having a healthy diet and exercise an important priority in their lives. Self-help reflexology may assist in maintaining this level of health and using corresponding reflexology charts can be a useful adjunct to regular reflexology treatments.

Hand reflexology – an empowering way to self-help techniques

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The most popular and familiar form of reflexology is applied to the feet, but the benefits of hand reflexology have sometimes been underrated. I encourage hand reflexology self-help or maintenance between treatments to enable the client to actively participate in their own treatment if they are able. Many self-help instructions are often so complicated that people soon lose interest but, in a four-week Reflexology in the Workplace observational study I undertook in 2002, the participants were taught to work their hands twice each day for 2-3 minutes and approximately 80% recorded improvement, some cases were very exceptional.  I have also developed Vertical Reflexology Techniques (VRT) which are versatile and can be used on client’s hands and feet in standing, sitting and reclining positions and can be used on small children through to octogenarians. 

Hand reflexology can be gently introduced as it is non-invasive, no clothes have to be removed and the therapeutic touch is usually limited to the hands.  In some cases, I have successfully introduced foot reflexology but it is not always suitable for older people who may have elasticated stockings, lymphatic issues or ulcers, corns or callouses. Some very infirm people may become distressed if their footwear is removed and the hands are a natural and familiar option for comfort, especially if a relative or carer is involved.    

Hand reflexology self-help techniques that can be taught to aid and improve sleep patterns are also very useful, as a deep and peaceful sleep each night is a great healer and allows the body to replenish. Many older people sleep badly, consequently feeling tired and dozing in the day. This has a negative cyclical effect as, by the time they reach bedtime, they are not tired enough to sleep deeply and yet another restless night ensues. 

Despite the many developments in western health care over the past 40 years, and the elimination of many once fatal diseases, good health still eludes many of us. Medical care and new drugs can prolong and save many lives but it is much better to look at preventative measures so that we can enjoy a healthy and active life into old age. Wellness is an intriguing concept because we take our health for granted till we are incapacitated either by short term illness such as flu or life-threatening illness. Our bodies have an amazing capacity for regeneration despite having often coped for years on a poor diet, bad posture, pollution, weak genetic inheritance and lack of exercise. 

If chronically sick clients in their mid-eighties can show signs of improvement and regeneration then there is a projected positive outcome for the “baby-boomer” generation who are now in their 60’s and early 70’s. My work as a reflexologist with chronically sick older people has led me to observe that there is still great chance of regeneration with older people with multiple health conditions. Carers and relatives can be taught simple reflexology techniques to apply to older people to help themselves and improve their well-being.  Whatever the age of someone suffering from a chronic condition; reflexology has a role in helping relaxation, regeneration and a better sense of well-being.

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Lynne Booth began studying reflexology 27 years ago and trained with the International Institute of Reflexology and has a private practice in Bristol and also runs a reflexology clinic at the 400-resident St Monica Trust for older people in Bristol for 24 years. She has been reflexologist to a professional football team for 14 years. She has won numerous awards for her discovery of Vertical Reflexology which she and her tutors teach internationally. She is the best-selling author of Vertical Reflexology and has also written Vertical Reflexology for Hands.

To find a reflexologist in your area see http://boothvrt.com/find-practitioner-uk/ or the Association of Reflexologists website http://www.aor.org.uk/far/search.php or the Federation of Holistic Therapists website https://www.fht.org.uk/search-directory 

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