June 2, 2022
Aging is the result of the natural course of time that leads to physiological, possibly psychological, and social changes. In addition to experiencing physiological changes, elderly adults face significant events such as retirement, the death of friends and family members, separation from social activities, and changes in social and economic relations, which affect their mental health, happiness, and compatibility. Estimates suggest that about 18% of adults over age 65 experience depressive symptoms. Depression in older adults can manifest differently than in younger people. Instead of sadness, older adults may experience a numbness or lack of interest in activities as their main symptoms. Additionally, more elderly adults in care facilities report anxiety than those living in a community (3%-20% compared to 1.4%-17%). Both anxiety and depression can reduce quality of life.
Aromatherapy, as one of the complementary medicine methods, is the use of essential oils of aromatic herbs for the treatment and adjustment of mind, body, and spirit, which combines the physiological effects with the use of massage with specific oils. The most obvious effect of the essential oils is their stimulation of the smell sense. Smells affect the brain. The olfactory system is connected to the limbic system, which is the emotional control center—hence involved in controlling stress and hormone balance. Depending on the type of aroma, nerve cells release different neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include enkephalins, endorphins, noradrenaline, and serotonin. On the other hand, according to the relationship between the sense of smell with the spirit and human feelings, essential oils can have an effect on the spirit and the body. In fact, odors are able to change the emotions in human. Aromatherapy is used in conjunction with conventional treatments for modifying or treating diseases, and includes two methods: inhalation aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage.
In aromatherapy massage, aromatic oils get absorbed through the skin in to the blood and exert their therapeutic effects such as vasodilation, increased skin temperature, pain relief, body relaxation, reduced anxiety, and depression.
A randomized, controlled trial evaluated the benefits of an aromatic massage in older adults living in nursing homes. Participants in the aromatic massage group received a 20-minute massage with lavender, chamomile, and rosemary (4:3:2 ratio and diluted to 3% in jojoba oil), three times weekly, for two three-week periods, broken up with a one-week break between. The control group received routine nursing home care services only. At the end of the study, both depression and anxiety significantly improved when compared to the control group, suggesting that an aromatic massage is an inexpensive and noninvasive way to improve quality of life among elderly individuals in care facilities.