What I Learned This Month About Being Sick While Old
Senior Moments: A Feature, Not a Bug

Elders and National Hugging Day

Today is National Hugging Day. As far as I can tell, there is no organization behind it and the day is nothing more than a listing on Chase's Calendar (and similar calendars) – that compendium of celebrations of silliness or, often, just brand names for marketing purposes.

But for the purposes of this blog, it is an opportunity to talk about the importance of touch to humans and how little of it elders experience.

”...human touch fosters trust and cooperation, even generosity,” writes Karen Brannen at LeadingAge. “It provides a sense of social support and wellbeing both physical and emotional...

“I've seen firsthand how the warmth of simple touching can transcend age and time. No matter how old we get, most of us love to have our hands held, get touched on the shoulder, or just enjoy a genuine, old-fashioned hug.”

I wrote about elders and the need for touch last June when I reported on having a massage. As noted at the ComfortKeepers website,

"The sense of touch is so powerful that some experts recommend elderly clients receive regular, professional massages. Massages in general are not meant to convey affection, but use the power of touch in another way.

"Gentle kneading of muscles helps release tension, can improve blood flow through the body and ease the pain of arthritis. While no affection is involved during a professional massage, oxytocin released in the body during the process produces the same comforting effects.

Writing last year in the Evansville Courier and Press, Professor Emeritus Hanns Pieper of Sociology and Gerontology at the University of Evansville noted:

”While other important senses such as vision and hearing usually decline as a normal part of the aging process, touch remains a viable and important sense. Just as the importance of touch increases, many seniors become more seriously touch deprived. In fact, they experience less touch than any other age group.”

Tara Cortes is the executive director of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University.

"We do know that just the touching of a person to another person, just the warmness, creates a sense of calmness and security," Cortes said.

“More than just chatting, playing games or even holding hands, giving focused, attentive touch establishes an intimate, nurturing bond that expresses caring, [massage therapist Dawn] Nelson said.

“She has seen it ease the symptoms of touch deprivation, such as grouchiness, irritability, and a lack of interest in life and people.”

Although I am generally happy living alone, I am one of those touch-deprived elders. Our culture does not foster touching and, in fact, seems to actively discourage it so that unless a person is a small child with a parent or two, or half of a married couple, there is little if any touching especially among old people.

With all this in mind, I wouldn't go around hugging people willy-nilly if I were you but it so improves life that it is a good thing to do – for everyone. Ask first and if an opportunity comes up for it, today would be a good day to start.

ANNOUNCEMENT: In keeping with letting myself off the hook for too many responsibilities while sick, I have not prepared stories for The Elder Storytelling Place this week. They will return next Monday 27 January.


Nice post, Ronni. Thanks. I sure hope you are feeling better today.

LiKe the post Ronni.
Feel better.
A big Hug!

More hugging, sounds right to me. That's one of the perks of grandkids.

Feel Better Ronni.
I used to be hug phobic but I was brought up without much of that. As I have gotten older-I still find it difficult to give and receive hugs but I try to make a point of it with our grandchildren and great grandchildren so they will be able to feel comfortable passing hugs along.

Today's post is timely for me. My daughter's ex-parents-in-law will be stopping by and the wife will hug me. Although they resent my daughter for leaving their son, we have maintained a good relationship and I will be getting a needed hug.

I am definitely touch-deprived and try to hug anyone who is receptive to my overtures. It just doesn't happen often enough.

I am sending you a virtual hug and more get well wishes. I am lucky enough to have friends who believe in the power of hugs - what a blessing human touch, given with respect and in friendship, can be.

I could do without the hugging (I'm not a touchy-feely guy) but a nice handshake and a pat on the back is nice once and a while.

Understand much in this post.
Wonderful when my little granddaughter's visit and hug me. After a bad fall last September - did not break anything - but a lot of pain with healing. One daughter asked "what is it you need"
my reply "a hug."

About 30 years ago I taught in an elementary school where my room, the science room and the gym were tucked in one small area. I just read about the need for a certain number of hugs needed each day to feel good and I told this to the male science teacher and the male and female gym teachers. We made a pact to supply each other with a hug each day. One day after the male gym teacher and I embraced, I turned around to see the principal at the top of the steps. He stood silently for a moment, then he said, I don't want to know and turned and walked away.
He was a lovely gentleman and
later I went up and explained
things. But we stopped hugging.

I will gladly hug or receive hugs from my children, my grandchildren or my very close friends. Aside from that I find hugs from people that I hardly know a definite inappropriate advance. I have personal space that I enjoy and some people are just too touchy for my taste. As far as massage goes, I just don't get the big attraction. I partook once and it took me two weeks to get my "aura" straightened out....But then I am very lucky and at 72 have very few aches and pains...

I will hug/receive hugs when called for; but, I'd just as soon not be touched, usually.

I cannot adequately explain how much I miss holding hands, the brush on the shoulder by a passing mate, the quick embrace - just the everyday touching that used to be in my daily life.
Ballroom dancing helps a little, but not nearly enough.
I don't regret my divorce over twenty years ago; i sure do miss touching and being touched.

When picking up my son at the airport recently, I saw two men, friends or related, greet one another with a long, loving husky embrace. Their warm feelings, as brothers, was palpable to dozens of us nearby. And we all wanted what they had.
What the hell holds us back?

I call it skin hunger. Thank goodness for our cats and dogs or we'd be in a real fix.

My family originated in Nebraska, on the farm before moving to the West Coast. The particular farmer subculture did not do much hugging. Nevertheless, they were really close to one another and didn't seem to miss it. I married into a Slavic family (off the boat) and hugging and kissing is the norm. I prefer the latter.

Awesome and Congratulations! nice article as always :)

I was so thrilled recently when someone stopped me on the road where I was out walking my dog and said: I was dying to meet you and I just have to hug you!

I realized afterwards that it had been a week since I was hugged and I was jonesing for one.

It should be on the daily requirement list.


i grew up in a family that was not affectionate and as a young adult i had trouble accepting someone touching me and had an automatic reaction to pull away if someone were going to hug me or merely touch me and i had to consciously stop myself. working with children got me over that and as someone else mentioned, animals can be helpful in providing mutual touching. i love the "free hugs" videos! it is like getting vicarious hugs...http://www.freehugscampaign.org/

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