Last Updated: May 15, 2024

Introduction to Physical Therapy (PT)

As we age, we tend to become more susceptible to chronic conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, and heart disease. Our risk of falling increases, as well – especially if proper fall prevention tactics are not in place. How can we best manage these conditions and recover from an injury or surgical procedure if they occur? 

One effective method of rehabilitation is physical therapy. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, physical therapy is a type of therapeutic treatment that helps people physically recover from an injury or surgery, or manage symptoms of certain health conditions. 

Physical therapy can be part of a generalized pain management plan, or used as a specific treatment for certain injuries or health conditions that affect movement, like Parkinson’s.

People of any age can receive physical therapy. One group of people in particular that benefits greatly from physical therapy is seniors, known as geriatric physical therapy. doctor therapist senior physical therapy (3)

What is Geriatric Physical Therapy?

group senior physical therapy water Geriatric physical therapy is a type of physical therapy specifically for people ages 65 and older. Geriatric physical therapy accounts for seniors’ unique issues, physical challenges, and health conditions. The focus of physical therapy for seniors tends to be on strengthening muscles, increasing endurance, building confidence, and/or recovering from an injury.

Specifically, there are three main components of geriatric physical therapy:

  • Manual therapy: Sometimes referred to as “hands-on treatment,” manual therapy is performed to reduce pain, restore mobility, and increase circulation. Some examples of manual therapy include soft tissue and joint mobilization.
  • Exercise: A trained physical therapist will prescribe a targeted exercise plan for seniors based on their specific needs and situation. Exercises used in geriatric physical therapy usually target muscle strength, coordination, balance, flexibility, and endurance. Different forms of exercise are used in geriatric physical therapy, including walking, stretching, resistance training, and aquatic therapy (especially if you live in a state with a warm climate like Florida that allows for year round outdoor pool usage).
  • Education: Staying educated about the physical therapy process is crucial for seniors to maintain the progress they make during treatments. Seniors can gain knowledge on safety tips for performing daily tasks, proper exercise techniques, using assistive devices, and prevent future injuries. 

Overall, geriatric physical therapy can target any of the following areas and more:

  • Rehabilitating specific injuries or ailments
  • Reducing pain
  • Staying physically active
  • Building strength
  • Lowering fall risk
  • Improving mobility and range of motion
  • Preventing muscle atrophy, or the breaking down of muscle
  • Preventing deconditioning, or the reversal of physical abilities 
  • Building confidence
  • Maintaining independence for Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Benefits of Physical Therapy (PT) for Seniors

doctor therapist senior physical therapy Physical therapy is beneficial for seniors due to the fact that we tend to lose strength and mobility as we age. Thus, geriatric physical therapy is a therapeutic option that is provided with seniors in mind, including their specific conditions and situations.

Physical decline often leads to reduced independence with daily tasks like moving, walking, standing, changing positions, and using stairs. Thus, physical therapy helps seniors maintain or restore these physical abilities so they can ultimately live a more independent life.

Additionally, participating in physical therapy treatments is a way to prevent future injuries and hospital stays for seniors. It is always a smart idea for seniors to aim to prevent future issues rather than react to the issues after they occur.

Types of Geriatric Physical Therapy Exercises

Geriatric physical therapy involves a number of different exercises depending on the senior’s specific abilities and needs. Most exercises involve building strength, flexibility, mobility, and balance.

Physical therapists tend to include many body weight exercises in geriatric physical therapy. Sometimes they incorporate equipment like light dumbbells or resistance bands if the senior’s condition allows. 

The following are examples of exercises used in geriatric physical therapy:

  • Range of motion exercises 
  • Lower body strengthening exercises like sit-to-stands, step-ups, leg lifts, bridges, and using light weights and resistance bands
  • Balance exercises like weight-shifting exercises, marching, tandem walking heel to toe 
  • Endurance training to improve lung and heart health, like using treadmills or stationary bikes
  • Lower body stretching, including lower back, hamstrings, and hips
  • Breathing exercises 

Where can seniors receive physical therapy?

Seniors can receive physical therapy in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, and at home.

In-Home Physical Therapy for Seniors

doctor therapist senior physical therapy (2) Seniors can receive physical therapy at home when appropriate. This option is especially useful for seniors who have difficulties with mobility or transportation.

Physical Therapy for Seniors in Assisted Living

Seniors can also receive physical therapy in senior living communities like assisted living and memory care facilities. They can also participate in physical therapy at inpatient healthcare facilities like rehabilitation centers and skilled nursing facilities. These options are convenient for seniors who live in these communities as they do not have to travel to an outside location to receive the therapy.

Outpatient Geriatric Physical Therapy

doctor therapist senior physical therapy (4) Seniors can go to hospitals, clinics, and physical therapy offices to receive physical therapy on an outpatient basis.

Group Geriatric Physical Therapy

group senior physical therapy Geriatric physical therapy can also be provided in a small group setting. Since there is more than one client at a time, the goal of group physical therapy is usually to prevent future injuries, promote positive movement, and increase independence, strength and mobility.

Geriatric physical therapy provided in a group setting increases the efficiency of the treatment and allows more seniors to access care during a given time. Group physical therapy can be beneficial for seniors because it is also an opportunity to socialize with others and receive peer support while simultaneously getting exercise. Socialization is a key factor in seniors’ overall well-being and quality of life.

Is geriatric physical therapy covered by Medicare or insurance? 

Most geriatric physical therapy can be provided on an outpatient basis and is covered by Medicare Part B. In-home physical therapy for seniors can also be covered by Medicare Part B. Inpatient geriatric physical therapy services are covered under Medicare Part A.

For those who do not have Medicare, regular health insurance and some Medicaid plans can partially or fully cover geriatric physical therapy based on medical necessity.

Senior Physical Therapy Near Me

Geriatric physical therapy can help seniors regain their independence, recover from injury, and improve or maintain their wellness and quality of life.

If you have a senior in your life who could benefit from geriatric physical therapy, our expert senior advisors can help you find the best treatment options in Florida.

And, if your senior loved one is considering assisted living, we can help you find a community that offers in-house physical therapy treatments so traveling to a clinic will not be a factor.

Florida Senior Consulting Advisors is here to help simplify the aging process and improve your loved ones’ health, well-being, and quality of life.

Call our experts at (800) 969-7176 or visit SeniorConsultingAdvisor.com to learn more about how we can help you thrive in your golden years.

Senior living on your terms. The choice should be yours.

Contact Florida Senior Consulting

(800) 969-7176