Baby Boomers Use Alternative Medicine

According to a recent study at Ohio State University, about 70 percent of the 50 Plus market uses alternative medicine. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, Professor Gong-Soog Hong led a survey of nearly 900 participants aged 50 and over. 65 percent of seniors who self-identified as unhealthy said they used some form of alternative medicine they considered curative or preventive — a higher percentage than other groups.

Baby boomers are looking for other ways to use alternative treatments as preventative medicine, as well as to relieve symptoms such as chronic pain and arthritis. Chiropractic care tops the list with 43% of respondents, with acupuncture coming in last.

Another survey on baby booms was conducted last fall by Sorelli B, a national research firm. This particular study showed that more than a third of those surveyed said chiropractic care avoided the need for prescription drugs and physical therapy. Participants also believed that chiropractic care helped them avoid back surgery and long, grueling hospital stays. Close to 60 percent of respondents said they were willing to petition their insurance companies to include chiropractic as part of their health care plans, even if they were willing to pay out-of-pocket for these services.

Other most popular methods of alternative medicine are massage therapy, breathing exercises, herbal remedies, and meditation.

The first study to look at the use of alternative medicine among the elderly with depression reveals that close to 20 percent use gingko biloba, ginseng, St. John’s Wort and other herbal remedies. The surprising findings may cause concern in doctors who treat baby boomers, as most patients are unaware of the risks of potential drug interactions.

“The results deserve further study and show that the elderly may have entered the alternative medicine market in a much larger way than we thought,” said Helen Kale, MD, of the University of Michigan.

Why alternative medicine? Older adults seek different types of treatments to reduce the aches and pains that often come with age. The elderly report problems with daily activities such as carrying food, eating or bathing. Moreover, many are dissatisfied with mainstream healthcare and often have problems with the current state of traditional healthcare. “Older adults tend to have more chronic diseases, and traditional medicine doesn’t always solve their problems,” says Hong.

Also, the survey showed that because chronic pain is so difficult and demanding to treat, people living with this type of pain will try everything possible to alleviate it.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the percentage of the 50-plus market that receives massages from a massage therapist has nearly tripled in the past five years. Why do baby boomers get a massage? For health reasons, according to the survey. Seniors reported seeking massage more than other age groups (41 percent) for health reasons (other than stress relief and relaxation).

The least popular application of alternative medicine emerged in the USA in the 1970s, Acupuncture has gained acceptance as an alternative to traditional Western medicine for pain relief and treating a variety of other health conditions. Research shows that they practice acupuncture to reduce the symptoms of baby boomers suffering from muscle and bone pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and various other problems.

The health-focused baby boomer generation also gets exercise. Being physically active is the solution to maintaining the quality of life for adults aged 50 and over. 16 million seniors exercise at least three times a week. From 1987 to 1995, the number of more than 50 health club members increased by 199 percent, and the number of more than 65 people joining health clubs increased by an astonishing 669%. According to the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), most active adult communities are responding to this need by including wellness centers in their planned communities. Also, age-targeted programs have been shown to be quite popular and provide tremendous benefits to other senior housing, sports facilities, and publicly funded community recreation programs.

Interestingly, day spas are fast becoming a hot market for those 50 and older. Instead of daily spa fees like facials and waxing, medical spas or MedSpas are now appearing on the market. MedSpas takes all the comfort and care of everyday spas, but also adds the latest in medical technology. Mud packs and cucumber slices have been replaced with hi-tech advanced fluorescent technology, microdermabrasion, and ultrasound technologies—all designed to help the 50-plus market feel better about their looks.

Alternative medicine plays a huge role in the lives of those experiencing a baby boom, but it doesn’t compare to preventative measures when it comes to health. The Southeast Research Institute found that the 50-plus market says some of the most important things to do to stay healthy are getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating a balanced diet. It is not surprising that life expectancy has increased by 30 years in the last century.

As healthcare costs continue to rise, baby boomers will continue to seek alternative medicine and evolve into “health booms.” They defined healthcare because they are strong, vocal and know what they want. Boomers are healthier and live longer, happier lives than any older generation in history.

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