According to a recent study conducted at Ohio State University, about 70 percent of the 50 Plus market use alternative medicine. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, Professor Gong-Soog Hong spearheaded a survey that included almost 900 participants aged 50 and above. 65 percent of seniors who described themselves in poor health said they used some form of alternative medicine they considered either curative or preventive--a higher percentage than any other group.
Baby boomers are searching for other ways to alleviate symptoms such as chronic pain and arthritis, as well as utilizing alternative therapies as preventive medicine. Chiropractic care topped the list with a whopping 43% of respondents, while acupuncture came in last.
Last fall, another survey of baby boomers was conducted by Sorelli B, a national research firm. This particular study showed than more than one third of those surveyed said that chiropractic care prevented the need for prescription drugs and physical therapy. The respondents also believed that chiropractic care helped them avoid back surgery and long, grueling, hospital stays. Close to 60 percent of those surveyed stated they would be willing to petition their insurance companies to include chiropractic as a component of their health care plan even though they were willing to pay for those services out-of-pocket.
The other most popular methods of alternative medicine include massage therapy, breathing exercises, herbal medicine and meditation.
The first study looking at alternative medicine use among seniors with depression finds that close to 20 percent are using gingko biloba, ginseng, St. John's Wort and other herbal remedies. The surprising findings could cause concern with physicians who treat baby boomers as most patients were unaware of the risks of potential drug interactions.
Helen Kale, M.D., from the University of Michigan says, "The results merit further study and suggest that seniors may have entered the alternative medicine market ina big way, much bigger than we thought."
Why alternative medicine? Older adults are searching for different kind of treatment to lessen the aches and pains that often come with age. Seniors are reporting problems with daily activities such as carrying groceries, eating or bathing. Moreover, many of them are simply not satisfied with mainstream health care and often have issues with the current state of conventional health care. "Older adults tend to have more chronic illnesses and conventional medicine doesn't always solve their problems," says Hong.
In addition, the survey showed that because the treatment of chronic pain is very difficult and demanding, people living in such pain will try everything possible to alleviate it.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the percentage of the 50 plus market who received a massage from a massage therapist in the past five years has almost tripled. Why do baby boomers get massage? For health reasons, according to the survey. Seniors even indicated they seek massage for health reasons (other than stress relief and relaxation) more than any other age group (41 percent).
The least popular practice of alternative medicine surfaced in the U.S. in the 1970s, Acupuncture has gained acceptance as an alternative to traditional Western medicine for pain relief and for treating a variety of other health conditions. Studies show that baby boomers who sufffer from muscle and bone pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and other ranges of problems, are giving acupuncture a try to lessen their symptoms.
The health-minded baby boomer generation is also exercising. Being physically active is the solution to maintaining the quality of life for adults 50 years and older. 16 million seniors exercise at least three times per week. From 1987 to 1995, the number of 50-plus health club members jumped 199%, and the number of 65-plus who joined health clubs jumped a staggering 669%. According to the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), most active adult communities are responding to this need by including wellness centers within their planned communities. Plus, age-targeted programs have been shown to be quite popular with tremendous benefits to other types of senior housing, fitness facilities and publicly-sponsored community recreation programs.
Interestingly enough, day spas are quickly becoming a hot market for those aged 50 and better. Instead of the usual day spa fare of facials and waxing, now medical spas or MedSpas are cropping up in the market. MedSpas take all the comfort and care of day spas, yet add the latest in medical technology. Mud packs and cucumber slices have been replaced with high-tech advanced fluorescence technology, microdermabrasion, and ultrasound technologies--all designed to help the 50 plus market feel better about their appearance.
Although alternative medicine plays a huge role in the lives of baby boomers, when it comes to health, there is no comparison to preventive measures. The Southeastern Institute of Research found that the 50 plus market say some of the most important things to do to stay healthy are to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet. It's no wonder that life expectancy has increased by 30 years in the past century.
As health care costs continue to rise, baby boomers will continue to seek alternative medicine and transform into "health boomers." They have defined health care because they're strong, vocal, and know what they want. Boomers are healthier than any generation of seniors in history and live longer, happier lives.