Many seniors are turning to alternative health and wellness therapies in addition to conventional medicine. While doctor’s visits and prescriptions may be imperative to maintaining healthy, complementary practices are becoming popular among seniors as a way to nurture the mind and body. For some, these complementary therapies can be spiritual, for others they are a way to ease anxiety, depression, and symptoms of pain or discomfort. There are several practices that have emerged, and even some that have been around for ages. Read on.
Aromatherapy – Perhaps one of the oldest practices of all complementary medicines, aromatherapy has been used for more than 6,000 years as a remedy for illness. Using essential oils from plants, the scent has a powerful impact on the body causing deep relaxation. The scent affects the nervous system and can even bring back memories, which is why aromatherapy is particularly beneficial for those with alzheimer’s or dementia. Other benefits of aromatherapy include eased depression, strengthened immune system, improved sleep, increased circulation, pain reduction, and higher energy levels.
Music Therapy – The Older Americans Act defines music therapy as “the use of musical or rhythmic interventions specifically selected by a music therapist to accomplish the restoration, maintenance, or improvement of social or emotional functioning, mental processing, or physical health of an older individual”.
Listening to music can provide happiness and comfort. Music has been proven to help seniors with anxiety and depression as well as memory loss. Hearing a favorite song from a different time can trigger emotions and memories, causing seniors to remember things they may not have otherwise.
Acupuncture – A therapy used by the Chinese for centuries, acupuncture is unique because it does not treat symptoms, but targets the pain source. It is based on a term called qi, which means life force or energy. The belief is that when a person is sick, their qi is imbalanced. By placing needles in various places throughout the body, the acupuncturist works to balance out the patient’s qi and return it to normalcy. Acupuncture is known to treat more than 40 ailments including depression; hypertension; knee, lower back, neck, and spine pain; postoperative pain; and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s even known to treat alcohol dependence and drug addiction.
Pet Therapy – Who doesn’t love a furry friend? Through companionship and unconditional love, pets can have physical and mental benefits for seniors. For example, just 15 minutes with an animal can increase serotonin levels, leading to positive emotions like happiness, relief, and contentment. Seniors that struggle with isolation can also benefit from animal therapy by interacting with an animal in a non-judgemental environment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36% of adults in the United States use some form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) therapy. What used to be considered alternative, is slowly becoming the norm. While there are many benefits to complementary practices in health and wellness, some doctors still remain skeptical. As with any medical practice, there can be risks, which is why It is important to talk to your doctor before you participate in complementary and alternative activities.