Jane Hopkins: Wisdom for Working with Our Elders

Jane Hopkins, Massage Is for Everybody 2022 winner, poses for a photo

By Lisa Bakewell

Jane Hopkins was one of the winners of ABMP’s Massage is for EveryBody 2022 contest, and we wanted to share more of her story, which exemplifies the inclusive values of this campaign. Please join us in celebrating Jane!

Massage therapist Jane Hopkins has often been referred to as an old soul, so she isn’t surprised she attracts a more senior clientele. “The majority of my clients are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s,” she says. “Over the course of my 17 years as a massage therapist, I’ve even seen a few clients in their 90s . . . most of whom have never had a massage before.”

As most of Hopkins’ clients grew up during a time when massage was seen as superfluous or decadent rather than therapeutic, it’s not surprising they’d never had a massage before seeing her. Therapeutic touch and self-care were not terms used in their generation. “Clients often come to me through a referral from a health-care provider or family member who suggests massage as a way to complement their health-care team,” says Hopkins. “Most feel benefits after their first session, as they experience muscle and energy shifts that manual therapy often brings throughout the body.”

Hopkins has seen a number of clients who have joint replacements, arthritis, stenosis, or suffer from a combination of degenerative diseases or pathologies that accompany the aging process. And although she acknowledges there is often pain and discomfort in advanced age, she is continually impressed with all the activities her septua- and octogenarian clients still participate in. “I have clients in their late 70s that play tennis and golf multiple days a week,” she says. “Others hike 14ers, and some clients in their 80s swim laps before I’m awake—and still camp in a tent and sleep on the ground.

“The collective years of experience and survival is humbling, inspiring, and always educational,” says the Colorado-based MT. “I am forever grateful when others share their life experiences that have shaped them, whether they are painful, joyful, or a mixture of emotions.”

From the business aspect of massage, Hopkins is thankful for referrals and return business, since she’s not a fan of marketing. One of the things she loves most about her profession is that marketing massage therapy has never really been a necessity for her. “There’s nothing flashy or tricky about it. If people value your services and if you can help them feel better, they return.”

For MTs who are considering senior massage as their focus, Hopkins has these thoughts to share:

• Trauma multiplies. “It is often said that ‘aging is a privilege,’ yet with age, the number (and perhaps severity) of micro and macro traumas increases as well—car accidents; falls on skis, horses, and ice; broken bones; surgeries . . . not to mention the emotional and physical demands of careers and family life. I have seen countless women with old and new muscle dysfunctions and deconditioning from childbirth (insert plug for postnatal core strengthening for all women, as well as evaluations for scar tissue and/or muscle adhesions resulting from pregnancy and birth). Traumas and injuries add up over time, and the body holds all of those stories, for better or worse.”

• Techniques require fluidity. “Seniors’ health sometimes changes quickly, so I try to be fluid in my techniques and treatments. I am fortunate to work in a clinic with physical therapists, so if there is a diagnosis, surgical procedure, or bony anomaly I am not familiar with, I have others I can go across the hall to for professional guidance. I also do my own research when needed.”

• Absorb the lessons. “As I approach 50, I feel fortunate to observe how others live in ways that matter, and to learn from them. I’m paying attention more than ever to [the] generations before me and feel lucky to have so many of them as clients . . . I think a lot about each of my client’s specific histories and try to consider that every time they are on my table.”

• Observe the changes. “Many of my clients have been with me for a long time and I’ve had the privilege of seeing them age over several years. I’ve seen up close the changes in their bodies and minds and how they navigate and adjust to those changes. I’ve learned to be a good listener and to respect the aging process.”

• Soak up all you can. “Seniors are a wealth of information and knowledge. They have wisdom and perspectives that only come with age. Listen, learn, and respect where they’ve come from—not only their physical beings, but also consider their personal histories and how that affects their bodies. Ask specific questions to learn what they want out of bodywork and continue to communicate with them about changes and shifts in their health and wellness.”

• Appreciate the experience. “The gratitude my clients express for their sessions is beyond my expectations. Their kind words and acts of appreciation, as well as their continued business, are what keep my practice and my heart full.”

Learn more about Jane Hopkins and her practice at janehopkins.massagetherapy.com.

Related content:

• Massage is for EveryBody is ABMP’s annual celebration of massage therapy and the philanthropic efforts of our members. Read more about the event, and the guiding principles that drive it.

• Read the winning essays from 2022’s Massage is for EveryBody celebration. 

• Enter your essay or video submission for the 2023 Massage is for EveryBody event. 

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