They walked to church together, prayed together, raised a family together, grew old together, laughed, cried, and had fun together. So what happens after a spouse dies?
I know many seniors who live alone and miss the simple act of touch(ing) on a daily basis. I read, senior citizens receive the least amount of touching than any other group.
Touch is perhaps the most powerful sense of all. Hugging, holding hands, and other physical gestures have the potential to ease your mind, make you feel less isolated and can reduce stress and anxiety. As we age, touch continues to be an important gesture, no matter how old you are.
Who doesn’t love a back rub, holding hands, having someone comb your hair, applying lotion to your arms, legs and feet, or feeling a warm embrace? Even a pat on the back can make someone feel wonderful.
A hand on hand is a basic human need. It is as essential as food, water, or air. Feelings of affection can make a big difference, whether a wink, a handshake or an encouraging smile. It tells a loved one they are valued, it can be calming; and experts suggest, it can act as pain relief by meeting the needs of the heart.
My Mother wasn’t a person who enjoyed giving or getting hugs, but from a young age, I demanded these: she would tense up like I was exacting a punishment. Every now and then my Mother’s home support person, would lean over and give my Mother a hug. The first time, I was blown away and waited for her reaction. Mother smiled and patted her hand, I was altogether delighted, mortified and angry.
The sense of emotional touch strengthens our bonds and also our relationships. It is said, verbal bonds facilitate this, physical communication confirms it, because touching someone often conveys a message in a way words cannot. Studies suggest that insignificant touches result in bigger tips for waitresses, and strangers are more likely to help if a touch accompanies a request, as long as it's proper, of course.
A hug or appropriate touching can have a powerful impact on the human psyche. It makes us feel happiness, joy, and internally it doesn’t matter if you’re the one being touched or the one relating in this manner. It triggers a release of neuro-hormones which can calm our mind, and help ease sadness, tension, and anxieties when you connect with others. The benefits of hugging include measures of: relaxing the body, increased bonding, relief of depression, elevation of mood, easing stress, improving heart rate, and boosting of your immune system.
Mary B., a long-time friend and neighbour growing up, stopped me, to say how much she and others enjoy reading my articles in The Standard. Then she leaned over and kissed my cheek. Unknown to her, my day had been a difficult one, and she absolutely made it so much better. Our words and actions can be a powerful tool to cheer and encourage someone when we are feeling down.
Proverbs 25:11 tells us, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word spoken in the right circumstances” by offering words and a gentle touch we can help discouraged people face their present, and future, with courage and a positive outlook.
There is a great deal of healing in a touch. Humans are wired so hugs make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Have you ever wondered why Jesus often reached out and touched people who were considered outcasts and sinners? Many seniors lose the option of daily contact with friends and family, and disabilities or depression may prevent them from reaching out to others, but remember a simple hug could prevent or even reverse this despair, and allow them to live a fuller and happier life.