Massage, a complementary therapy effectively promoting the health and well-being of older people in residential care settings: a review of the literature

Int J Older People Nurs. 2016 Dec;11(4):266-283. doi: 10.1111/opn.12115. Epub 2016 Feb 15.


Aims: To explore the potential benefits of massage within daily routine care of the older person in residential care settings.

Background: Globally, the proportion of people over 65 years is rapidly rising. Increased longevity means older people may experience a rise in physiological and psychological health problems. These issues potentially place an increased demand for quality long-term care for the older person. Complementary approaches such as massage appear to be needed in quality residential care.

Design: A critical literature review was undertaken.

Methods: A literature review pertaining to massage in the older resident was conducted using a range of online databases. Fourteen studies dated 1993-2012 met the inclusion criteria and were critically evaluated as suitable resources for this review.

Results: Evidence suggests massage may be advantageous from client and nursing perspectives. Clients' perceive massage to positively influence factors such as pain, sleep, emotional status and psychosocial health. Evidence also demonstrates massage to benefit the client and organisation by reducing the necessity for restraint and pharmacological intervention. Massage may be incorporated into care provision and adopted by care providers and family members as an additional strategy to enhance quality of life for older people.

Conclusion: Massage offers a practical activity that can be used to enhance the health and well-being of the older person in residential care.

Implications for practice: Massage offers benefit for promoting health and well-being of the older person along with potential increased engagement of family in care provision. Integration of massage into daily care activities of the older person requires ongoing promotion and implementation.

Keywords: long-term care; massage; nursing home; older person; residential care; senior citizens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Massage*
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pain Management
  • Psychomotor Agitation / therapy
  • Relaxation
  • Sleep
  • Social Isolation