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Magical Massage Leaves Elderly Clients Feeling Like New in Boise

Published on September 30, 2013 by Tiffany Coleman

“Introduce yourself. She is a client. Louder. Remember what we have learned in class. This is all about communication.”

From words of encouragement to verbal reinforcements, Justin Kobbe is taking his students to a whole different level. As students in the massage therapy school at Broadview University-Boise round out their coursework in the Pregnancy & Special Populations class, they have left the comforts of the student massage clinic for some real hands-on learning experiences.

massage therapy school

First-year massage therapy student, Michelle Fenn, says she found a connection while working on residents at Spring Creek Manor in Boise.

On this day, they are applying their learning at a nearby assisted living center. Spring Creek Manor in Boise is their classroom; the elder residents who live here are their assignments. The goal is to work on people with non-traditional muscle structures. One by one, the residents magically appear in a variety of ways—some have walkers and wheelchairs; others arrive with the assistance of a loved one or a cane. They are all greeted with a smile.

“Hello, my name is Michelle,” one of the students says. “Please let me know if the pressure is too much for you.”

“This is my favorite thing,” Kobbe says. “We talk about it and talk about it in class, but they have no idea how it’s going to go until they get here. They don’t do very well for the first hour, and then, it all comes together.”

As the students work, Kobbe closely watches their progress. At times he reminds the students to speak clearly and to watch their posture. Just as magically as the residents appear, one can begin to see their bodies and faces relax. One nursing assistant tells an elderly man she bets he feels 10 years younger. His response, “I feel like a new man!”

A few minutes later, another resident is done and a student tells her she can come back later for another massage if she would like.

“That’s okay,” the woman says, “After that, I will probably go back to my room and go to sleep.”

“This class is neat because you get to learn about the different types of bodies,” Cheanine Williams, a second-year massage student, says. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was interesting to feel the difference in their bodies.”

massage therapy school

Second-year massage therapy student, Chelsea Anderson, learned she needed to work on her communication skills.

“One lady I worked on had a stroke on her left side,” Michelle Fenn, a first-year student, said. “She started crying when I touched her left side. She wasn’t in pain, but it was just the emotion behind it. It gave me an appreciation of what she was feeling, and it was interesting to explain it to her.”

“This is just a great, overall experience for the students,” Kobbe said. “A lot of elderly people take medicine, have illnesses, fragile skin, and skeletal problems, or maybe even Parkinson’s disease or dementia. Communicating can also be difficult. The students must adapt their approach to each individual. It’s a good lesson for them.”

Kobbe says as the Baby Boomer population increases, there will be a great demand for massage therapists who can work with the elderly.

“It takes a special person to be able to do this line of work,” he says. “It’s tough. Rewarding, but tough.”

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