Complementary and Alternative Health as You Age

complementary alternative health, medicare, yoga, alternative medicine, seniors

This article was updated on March 23, 2021. 

Considering that the cost of healthcare and medical insurance for some, depending on income and other factors, can be expensive, and since Medicare does not cover everything, more and more seniors are making use of complementary and alternative medicine for healing. Alternative and complementary therapies (sometimes called integrative health) can help to work alongside traditional medical care.

Most nontraditional therapies are not covered by Medicare. It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor when using these therapies to make sure there are no complications with other prescriptions you might be taking.

Types of alternative medicine

Complementary and alternative therapies have been shown to be beneficial to older adults, especially for managing chronic conditions, relieving pain, and improving the overall quality of life. Alternative medicine can include a wide range of remedies, such as:

  • herbal supplements
  • massage for pain and circulation
  • acupuncture for joint problems and post-stroke recovery
  • chiropractic services (covered under Medicare Part B if medically necessary to correct bones out of position in your spine)
  • eating fruits and vegetables
  • using essential oils
  • Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Qi Gong
  • meditation
  • music therapy
  • acupuncture
  • Reiki and therapeutic touch
  • biofeedback for high blood pressure or chronic pain
  • St. John’s Wort for mild depression
  • CBD oil

Complementary, alternative, and integrative health can be beneficial in treating disease. These therapies outside of mainstream Western medicine are a reflection of people moving toward a more holistic view of health.

Why try alternative medicine

There are a variety of reasons to try complementary and alternative therapies, including:

  • empowering the patient to take control of his or her self-care
  • strengthening the body’s defense mechanisms
  • treating pain
  • managing symptoms
  • lowering costs
  • improved quality of life
  • fewer side effects
  • less invasive treatments

While alternative therapies can be divided into the categories of natural products and mind and body practices, there is also an impact of a third category, spiritual practices, which perhaps have not been studied as much scientifically, but have shown to aid tremendously in healing.

More information on natural therapies can be found at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, where you can search from A to Z on topics from Aloe Vera and Anxiety to Peppermint Oil and Reiki. For information on costs and paying for care, visit their Paying for Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches page. 

How to get help 

Medicare doesn’t cover everything. But you can find a plan that covers more of your health needs. Try Medicare World’s free Medicare quotes and see how much you can save. You’ll have more leftover for wellness and complementary health practices. 

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