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Massage Today
June, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 06

Getting Better With Age

By Ann Brown, LMT

In the United States today, we can look forward to living longer than ever before. By 2030, projections show that one in five Americans will be over the age of 65. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 50,454 centenarians (people age 100 or over) in the year 2000.

By the year 2030, the number of centenarians is expected to reach more than 200,000 people. But why does this matter to you as a massage therapist?

The living-longer baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) represents a significant, potential source of business for you. Baby boomers aren't just getting older. They are looking for ways to stay active, healthy and vibrant. "Retirement" isn't in their vocabulary. Their focus is on getting better, not older.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

Baby boomers have a need, not just a desire, for massage therapy in order to live the lifestyle they want and they have the disposable income to support their needs. According to the U.S. Census and Federal Reserve, 78 million Americans who were 50 or older as of 2001, controlled 67% of the country's wealth, or $28 trillion dollars (www.immersionactive.com/resources/50-plus-facts-and-fiction/).

Getting Better With Age - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark For the baby boomers, massage is more than a luxury. As a spa director, I work to make sure our therapies and services go beyond the treatment table, because I want our spa to go beyond a treatment that they can take or leave. I want clients to understand how the entire spa lifestyle can support their desired way of life and is essential to achieving the activity and wellness they want to enjoy. For baby boomers, a spa treatment is not just a spa treatment – it's a lifestyle choice.

As a massage therapist, you have the opportunity to work with the same mission. Your offerings may be smaller scale compared to a full resort spa, but you can still consider the same spa strategies to make a healthy impression on your clients. Baby boomers are very concerned about their health. As a massage therapist, you can educate them on the benefits of massage to help them understand its potential for their health and quality of life. You know the benefits of massage: increased circulation, lowered blood pressure, pain alleviation, increased joint flexibility, reduced depression and anxiety and more. By educating yourself beyond the basics, with recent research concerning this age group, you can share and educate your baby boomer clients on how massage can impact their changing needs as they age.

For example, in a Brazilian study released in 2011, therapeutic massage was shown to decrease the severity of insomnia and anxiety-depressive symptoms related to menopause. A 2007 study at the University of South Carolina compared the effects of massage among older adults. The study found that adults 60 years of age and older who received massage therapy 50 minutes twice weekly for 4 weeks, experienced significant improvements in mood (decreased anxiety). Massage therapy is proven to enable baby boomers to feel good and do more. As a massage therapist, you have a great opportunity to help your clients realize the importance of massage and improve their quality of life.

Encourage Regular Visits

One of the keys to establishing a strong relationship with your baby boomer clients is to encourage regular massage visits. To help them make it happen, encourage your baby boomer clients to consider using a flexible savings account (FSA), healthcare savings account (HSA) or healthcare reimbursement account (HRA) to set aside funds and pay for their massages with tax-free dollars. Encourage your clients to check with their employer about one of these accounts if they don't already have one.

Your client will need to determine if a doctor's referral is required to use their HSA account for their massage sessions. Even if a doctor's referral is required, qualifying illnesses generally include carpal tunnel syndrome, stress, back pain, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression and pain management – a list that will somehow touch most of your clients in one way or another.

These types of accounts are often set up with employers in the fourth quarter of the year. Consider approaching local businesses at this time to discuss ways you could help set up a special series  of offers for their employees, creating a wellness plan for employees to take part in. Structure a 12-month plan with options for one or two massages a month and an annual fee – one that is at a savings from your regular massage rate to incentivize the one-year commitment. Time the offer with the window during which employees can opt in to a FSA or HSA to benefit from the deadlines established by the employer and jump start your new clients' interaction with your business. As an added benefit for the business, you might offer free chair massages on a specific day, giving the company a great morale boost for their staff and creating an introduction for you. The 12-month plan doesn't have to be limited to local businesses, but you should look for ways to personalize your approach. Use such loyalty programs as a strategy to help your clients prioritize massage visits each month.

Ready to start now? Look at ways to bring a more comprehensive health focus to your practice. Search for ways to support the baby boomers' desire for overall wellness. A simple, no-cost, add-on you can implement in your service is a breathing exercise. Lead your client through a guided breathing meditation to begin the massage, increasing their relaxation. Let the breathing exercise start a conversation about how a massage is more than just a rub-down, but part of a greater wellness movement.

Stay proactive in your approach to help your clients find ways to make massage a regular part of their lives. They will physically and mentally benefit from the regular massage treatments, and you benefit from the solid, consistent appointment schedule.


Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.

 

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