Rebels with a cause: Healthy seniors who do it their way

In a world where social media is king, seniors catch a lot of flak.

Especially when those memes start making the rounds poking fun at baby boomers — as if those younger millennials and gen Xers can compete with 50+ years of life experience under the belt.

But seniors aren’t just experienced. They’re rebels — leading the way to better ways to do things… like staying healthy.

Take integrative medicine, for example.  It’s an approach to health care that utilizes a range of conventional and complementary therapies as a part of whole-person care.

Complementary therapies that fall under that integrative medicine umbrella include options, like chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation and even yoga.

And while those options have far too long been considered “alternative medicine,” according to a recent survey, seniors are leading the way in taking them mainstream — by seeking integrative health practices that work for them, and long before self-care and hygge were trending.

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The hard numbers and positive results

The University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a national sample of adults aged 50–80 about their interest in and experiences with integrative medicine strategies.

And the results show that seniors everywhere deserve a pat on the back for blazing the trail and making alternative and integrative practices, including lifestyle modifications and methods, more accepted.

The survey showed that two-thirds of seniors had used at least one integrative medicine strategy to prevent or treat a health concern, with 38 percent using one currently and 28 percent having leveraged their value in the past.

According to the poll, the most common integrative medicine strategies seniors turn to include:

  • Massage therapy – 41 percent of seniors have used massage therapy, with most putting it to work to grab its benefits for relaxation and lessening aches and pains.
  • Chiropractic care – Like with massage, 41 percent of people aged 50 to 80 have seen a chiropractor to say goodbye to physical symptoms like back pain.
  • Meditation and mindfulness – Over a quarter, or 27 percent, of seniors have used meditation or mindfulness exercises, mainly to relax, manage stress and improve their mental health. And it’s easy to see why these practices would be so popular since nearly all adults surveyed reported that they believe that the mind impacts health.

Additionally, 24 percent of seniors used yoga as part of an integrative approach to improving their health and wellbeing, and 16 percent reported seeing an acupuncturist.

Seniors are also turning to integrative medicine strategies to help with problems ranging from insomnia and digestive issues to diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and more.

And here’s the really good news…

Among older adults who had used one or more integrative medicine strategies, 91 percent found them beneficial. In fact, 38 percent reported the therapies they tried as being “very beneficial.” And even 53 percent said they were somewhat beneficial.

In other words, if you’re considering putting integrative medicine options, like chiropractic or massage to work for you, you’ve got great odds!

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When to consider integrative medicine

This information isn’t really all that surprising. For years, seniors have been leading the way in turning to natural supplements to improve their health and lifestyles.

In fact, 78 percent of those aged 55 years and older consume dietary supplements.

With all of those positives, you may be surprised to learn that while the survey found that seniors are not shy about turning to integrative medicine, only one in five had talked to a health care provider about integrative medicine strategies.

This could be due to the fact that far too many doctors still take a medication-only approach to health.

But the seniors who were lucky enough to have a physician who talked positively about lifestyle factors reported that they were more likely to use integrative medicine strategies than those whose primary care providers talked about lifestyle factors less often.

Alternative and integrative practices are great for helping to maintain health. And many are proof that the best medicine is prevention. Some therapies, including nutrition and supplements, can also help manage health issues.

But either way — with their doctors on board or still stuck in a Big Pharma whirlpool — seniors are showing us the way to the future of healthy living.

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Use of and Interest in Integrative Medicine Strategies – University of Michigan

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.