by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
April 10, 2002
AGING BODIES NEED COMFORT, TOO
SAN DIEGO -- Water has figured prominently in my thoughts all week. Hot water, hot tubs, whirlpools, spas and the like.
It hadn't start off so steamy. I struck up a perfunctory conversation with a physical therapist while out marketing my brand of connectivity in health care. He began our dialogue as if I was no more than nuisance d'jour but at some point deciding that I warranted interest, began enthusiastically sharing his dream of having a full-sized pool where clients could receive hydrotherapy.
In turn, I shared a vintage dream of my own that my elderly clients could soak in invigorating waters on a regular basis, increasing muscle tone and circulation and most important of all, reviving their weary souls. Several days later, I was talking with a friend about his recent experience going to a spa. He said prior to this his preconception was that spas are mostly something for women, not men and how by the end of the day he'd been delightfully cured of that silly notion. He spoke of how wonderful it was to sit with other men in the hot tubs soaking away the headaches and muscle aches of a harried life.
We mused on how ancient cultures seemed more comfortable with men being together in various states of undress while soaking in the therapeutic environment of the baths.
I found myself back in time to Havasupai, 1972. Two young women surrounded by Supai elders in a mud sweat lodge at the outskirts of the village. A river ran by it. I can still see the faces of the old men dripping sweat, chanting, pouring water on the limestone rocks glowing over chunks of juniper and cedar wood.
They loved being together, these old men covered in mud. Sure beat the hell out of bingo. They'd get out and jump in the ice cold water of the river, then go back in and chant and sweat some more.
Contrasted in my mind was the thought of the hundreds of men I have seen wasting away in nursing homes; crippled from inactivity, sitting crumpled up in a wheel chair, begging to go to bed or to the bathroom. What a shame that most aging men in our culture find themselves alone, disconnected and being neglected physically.
Ed was one happy exception. He was the only man I've seen in 20 years whose daughter understood how to properly honor and minister to an old man. Sandra was a holistic health practitioner from Australia and well versed in alternative therapies. She came to visit her dad once a month for over a year, flying out from North Carolina to be with him at the nursing home where he spent the last part of his life.
In her bag of tricks there were always various tinctures and oils, lotions and potions to rub on her Father's sore joints and dry skin. She had Bach Flower Remedies to dab on and to drink. She loved to rub his feet and how he loved to have them rubbed. When she was not with him she had a masseuse come once a week to give him a full body massage. Afterwards he would fall into a deep sleep smelling of lavender or roses.
Oh, what a lucky man he was.
Of course it's impractical to expect that many of the elderly will be able to have full body massages or access to hot tubs or sweat lodges but more could easily avail themselves of the benefits of healing touch if a family member decided to get a little creative. Next time you go see an aging parent or a family member or friend, offer to give them a little scalp massage or back rub.
Don't be afraid to touch them. If they'll let you, hug them, hold them, and kiss them. Soak their feet. Bring them the fragrance of flowers.
At any age, getting physical is powerful medicine.