You might be wondering why I want to talk about healthy ageing. Well, the number of people reaching the age of 100 or older has increased by 73% in the last decade. Better healthcare has resulted in a world population that is living longer, but not necessarily healthier.
As we age, we often think inevitable aches and pains are part of growing old, but it doesn’t have to be this way. As therapist’s, we see older clients in our practices, and as 1 in 5 is expected to hit their 100th Birthday in the UK, it’s useful to think about how we can use Reflexology to support our health care system as the ageing population puts more financial stresses on our health, social care and pensions.
We now have to work for longer and today's generation of over 50's are more likely than ever before to have to deal with full-time work, caring for elderly parents, ailing relatives and looking after grandchildren. All this pressure at a time when they thought they could start taking it easy can be tiring and stressful.
The role of Reflexology
Reflexology can provide a gentle restoring and re-balancing effect on the body. It's simple, only using finger pressure on the feet, it's not invasive, and there's no need to undress (apart from socks and shoes).
In Reflexology, different parts of the feet (known as reflexes) relate to different parts of the body, so although a therapist will only work on the feet, the treatment can connect with the entire body and its systems.
It gently stimulates circulation which helps improve blood flow around the body
It’s very relaxing, can have a calming effect on the digestive system, reduce stress and enhance wellbeing.
It supports lymphatic and elimination functions, offering a mild detox effect.
Research has demonstrated it can relieve pain
The older we are, the more important it is to take a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, and the beneficial effects of Reflexology are even more relevant as the year's pass.
Reflexology is thought to be especially beneficial for older people dealing with complex and chronic conditions, such as pain, anxiety and depression, as well as for the end of life palliative care.
Touch is a powerful tool in nearly all therapies, and for some isolated or lonely older people, the gentle, relaxing sensation that reflexology achieves is the one time they can be treated holistically. The whole body is treated with every session and all ailments, large or small, can be addressed.
Reflexology and Medication
As we get older, we tend to rely more on medication to control things such as our blood pressure, blood sugar, or heartburn. Here, Reflexology has two roles, ensuring the body works efficiently enough for tablets to work effectively, and restoring the balance so that the dosage can be reduced, and in some cases, stopped altogether.
Medication needs to be broken down by the stomach, passed through the intestines, and used in the tissues at the site of action. Most tablets are given in standard doses, whether you are a 20-stone man or a 9-stone woman, so the excess medication then has to be absorbed, filtered by the kidneys and passed through urine.
Many things can affect how drugs are absorbed by each person including:
How the medication is administered – for example, orally is slower than intravenous (by injection)
Digestion – how the stomach and digestive processes break down the tablets
Nutrition – what has been eaten can affect the rate of the tablets leaving the stomach, for example, foods high in fat can take many hours to be digested.
Hydration – if the body is dehydrated, the medication is not absorbed well
Stress – high stress upsets digestion and reduces absorption
Pain – affects absorption in the same way as for stress
Activity levels – the more active the person, the more likely full absorption will be
This is where Reflexology can really benefit you; by aiding the digestion and absorption process, reducing stress, and relaxing the body to encourage effective blood circulation.
Here’s to a healthier life!
We are hardwired to repair and restore, however, as we accumulate toxins from our diet, environment, skincare products, medication etc. – usually with time and age – the process becomes overburdened and slows down. The wide availability of information through the internet is now empowering many of us to change. Our desire for overall wellness starts a journey that allows us to take responsibility for how we choose to live, hoping it will influence our current health status and pay off in our future health.
Healthy ageing for most of us is about reducing the potential for an early state of deterioration. It is increasingly clear that making changes to our nutrition, exercise and stress levels can help to protect us against disease and disability as we age.
So, what is the role of Reflexology and other holistic therapies with our desire to improve our health, live longer and age healthier?
The skin is the largest organ of the body – laid out flat it’s approximately 2 metres squared and weighs about 3.6 kilos. As we work over its blood rich surface that contains more than 1,000 nerve endings per 6.5cm, we are networking to every linked system on the body. By pressing a reflex area on the skin, an infinite combination of areas in the individual will also have been stimulated. However, the exact responses are unknown, probably because they are unique to the individual and their imbalances at that moment in time.
Reflexology is all about working the imbalances on a person and promoting self-healing via the specific reflexes found in the feet. As a holistic therapist, I aim to address the individual on all levels; mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and energetic. Although the aim is to reach homeostasis, in reality, this rarely happens. As we continue to interact with our environment, we continue to change and grow.
Change is just a natural part of life. A tree, for instance, will naturally lose its leaves, regenerate new ones, bloom into flower and propagate new branches. We will do the same, regenerating new cells, changing thoughts, beliefs and interests as we age.
Ageing well can be enhanced by life balance: making sure you follow healthy nutrition and exercise regime; creating a balance between work and rest; responsibility and fun; and stress and relaxation.
By offering your mind and body an opportunity to rest and re-balance, you trigger your natural healing resources. Rest and relaxation are vital in this process of restoring mind and body, and it's often the element that's missing for most people. This is where Reflexology and holistic therapy can support you on your wellness journey.
Ageing is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength - Betty Freidan