Geriatric physical therapist

A geriatric physical therapist is a healthcare professional who specializes in working with older adults to improve their physical function, mobility, and quality of life. They use various techniques and exercises to help their patients maintain or regain their ability to move and perform everyday activities.

Geriatric physical therapists may work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, or private practice. They work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians and occupational therapists, to develop treatment plans tailored to each patient’s specific needs and goals.

Geriatric Physical Therapy Education

Geriatric physical therapy is a specialized field of physical therapy that focuses on the unique needs of older adults. As the population ages, the demand for geriatric physical therapists is expected to increase. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in geriatric physical therapy, here’s what you need to know about the education and training required.

Education Requirements

To become a geriatric physical therapist, you must first earn a degree in physical therapy. There are two main types of physical therapy degrees: a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree. Both degrees require a bachelor’s degree and completion of a physical therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

After completing your physical therapy degree, you must obtain a license to practice in your state. Licensing requirements vary by state but typically include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours.

Specialization in Geriatric Physical Therapy

While a physical therapy degree provides a strong foundation in anatomy, physiology, and movement science, it may not provide extensive training in geriatric physical therapy. To specialize in this field, physical therapists can pursue continuing education and certifications.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers a Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS) certification for physical therapists who demonstrate advanced clinical knowledge and skills in geriatric physical therapy. To be eligible for the GCS certification, physical therapists must have at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience working with older adults and pass a certification exam.

There are also a variety of continuing education courses and programs available that focus specifically on geriatric physical therapy. These courses cover topics like age-related conditions and disabilities, exercise interventions for older adults, and fall prevention strategies.

Skills Required for Geriatric Physical Therapy

To be a successful geriatric physical therapist, you must have a range of skills beyond a solid understanding of anatomy and physiology. You must be able to communicate effectively with older adults, many of whom may have hearing or vision impairments, dementia, or other cognitive impairments.

Geriatric physical therapists must also be able to adapt their treatment plans to meet the specific needs and limitations of each patient. They must be able to modify exercises and activities to accommodate mobility limitations, balance issues, and other age-related conditions.

Geriatric Physical Therapist Career Opportunities

Geriatric physical therapists can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and home health agencies. They may work with patients recovering from surgery or illness, or with those who have chronic conditions like arthritis or Parkinson’s disease.

As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the demand for geriatric physical therapists is expected to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

What is the role of a geriatric physical therapist?

Geriatric physical therapists work with individuals who are experiencing age-related changes, such as decreased strength and flexibility, balance problems, and chronic pain. They also work with individuals with age-related medical conditions, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and dementia. Geriatric physical therapy may involve a variety of interventions, including exercise programs, manual therapy, gait and balance training, fall prevention strategies, and education on safe and effective movement techniques. The specific interventions used will depend on the individual’s needs and goals, as well as their medical history and current physical condition.

Overall, the role of geriatric physical therapy is to help older adults maintain their independence and quality of life by improving their physical function, managing their pain and other symptoms, and reducing their risk of falls and other injuries.

Deomins of geriatrics physical therapy

Geriatrics physical therapy, also known as geriatric rehabilitation, is a specialized area of physical therapy that focuses on treating the physical impairments and functional limitations associated with aging. Some of the common domains of geriatric physical therapy include:

  • Balance and gait training
  • Pain management
  • Joint mobility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Respiratory function
  • Cognitive function

Balance and gait training

 As people age, they are more prone to falls due to declines in balance and gait. Geriatric physical therapy can help improve balance and reduce the risk of falls through exercises and training.

Pain management

Chronic pain is common among older adults and can impact their quality of life. Geriatric physical therapy can help manage pain through exercises, manual therapy, and other techniques.

Joint mobility

 Arthritis and other joint conditions are common among older adults and can limit mobility. Geriatric physical therapy can help improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Cardiovascular endurance

Geriatric physical therapy can help improve cardiovascular endurance, which is important for maintaining overall health and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Respiratory function

Geriatric physical therapy can help improve respiratory function, which is important for seniors with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory conditions.

Cognitive function

Geriatric physical therapy can also help improve cognitive function, including memory and attention, through exercises and other techniques.

Overall, geriatric physical therapy aims to improve the functional abilities and quality of life of older adults.

How does geriatric physical therapy work?

Geriatrics physical therapy typically begins with a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed physical therapist. The evaluation may include a review of the individual’s medical history, a physical examination, and assessments of their strength, flexibility, balance, and mobility.

Based on the evaluation findings, the physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to the individual’s specific needs and goals. The treatment plan may include a variety of interventions, such as:

  • Exercise programs
  • Manual therapy
  • Gait and balance training
  • Fall prevention strategies
  • Education and counseling

Exercise programs

Geriatric physical therapists may develop exercise programs that focus on improving strength, flexibility, and endurance. These exercises may be performed in the clinic, at home, or in a group setting.

Manual therapy

Geriatric physical therapists may use hands-on techniques such as massage, stretching, and joint mobilization to help improve mobility and reduce pain.

Gait and balance training

Geriatric physical therapists may work with individuals to improve their ability to walk and maintain balance, which can help reduce the risk of falls.

Fall prevention strategies

Geriatric physical therapists may provide education and training on strategies to prevent falls, such as home modifications, assistive devices, and safe movement techniques.

Education and counseling

Geriatric physical therapists may provide education and counseling on topics such as nutrition, hydration, and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Throughout the course of treatment, geriatric physical therapists will regularly assess progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed to help the individual achieve their goals. The ultimate goal of geriatric physical therapy is to help older adults maintain their independence and improve their overall quality of life.

What is the old name of a physical therapist?

The old name for a physical therapist is “physiotherapist“. This term is still widely used in many parts of the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and Canada. However, in the United States, the term “physical therapist” has become more commonly used in recent decades.

What is the difference between PT and DPT?

PT stands for physical therapist, while DPT stands for doctor of physical therapy.

A physical therapist is a licensed healthcare professional who works with patients to help them reduce pain, improve mobility, and restore function through exercise, manual therapy, and other treatments.

A doctor of physical therapy is a physical therapist who has completed a doctoral degree program in physical therapy. The DPT degree typically requires additional coursework and clinical experience beyond what is required for a bachelor’s or master’s degree in physical therapy.

In the United States, a DPT degree is now required to become a licensed physical therapist. This means individuals who want to practice as physical therapists must complete a DPT program and pass a licensure exam.

While both PTs and DPTs provide similar services, DPTs have typically undergone more advanced education and training, which may allow them to specialize in certain areas or take on more complex cases. However, both PTs and DPTs are qualified to provide general physical therapy services and help patients achieve their goals for improved mobility and function.

is physical therapy safe for the elderly?

Yes, physical therapy can be safe for elderly individuals. In fact, physical therapy is often recommended for older adults as it can help improve their strength, balance, flexibility, and overall quality of life. However, it is important for the physical therapist to take into account the individual’s age, medical history, and current health status when designing a treatment plan. Additionally, the therapist should closely monitor the individual’s progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Is 40 too old to become a physical therapist?

No, 40 is not too old to become a physical therapist. While some may argue that starting a new career at 40 is challenging, it is certainly possible to become a physical therapist at this age.

What are the different types of geriatric physiotherapy?

Geriatric physiotherapy can be applied in three different ways: hydrotherapy, mechanotherapy, and kinesiotherapy (biomechanical movements).


Geriatric physical therapists play a critical role in enhancing seniors’ health and well-being. They help seniors maintain or improve their physical function, mobility, and independence, which can lead to a better quality of life.

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