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The Power of Touch for Older Adults

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Touch plays an important role in our lives, at any stage of life. In fact, touch is one of our basic human needs, and one of the first senses to develop in the womb. From the moment we are born, we experience gentle touch that gives us comfort and reassurance and creates an emotional connection with loved ones. We reap the benefits of touch throughout life, and as we get older, compassionate touch can become even more important.

Studies by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute have found that touch can lead to a variety of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. For people of all ages, compassionate touch may help to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Slow heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve heart function
  • Improve immune function
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Enhance alertness and cognitive performance
  • For Alzheimer’s patients, increase communication

Unfortunately, seniors are often the least-touched of any age group. The absence of touch may be due to a disability or chronic illness that prevents the older adult from leaving home and socializing with others. The loss of a spouse or having family members who live far away may also limit the amount of touch an older adult receives on a regular basis. Living without human touch can be detrimental to anyone, leading to feelings of stress, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and even aggression. 

Here are some ways you can help your aging parent or loved one receive more physical contact:

Give hugs – A simple embrace is a great way to express affection and strengthen your bond with your loved one.

Hold their hand or touch their arm – When talking to your loved one, hold their hand or gently touch their arm from time to time. Even walking arm-in-arm can go a long way in making your parent or loved one feel cared for and supported.

Give a gift of a massage, manicure or pedicure – Find a massage therapist that specializes in treating older adults, and schedule a massage for your loved one. Or, arrange a pampering trip to the spa for a manicure or pedicure. You can also give your loved one a gentle at-home hand or foot massage for a similar effect.

Interact with animals – Pet therapy is a wonderful way for older adults to experience the benefits of giving and receiving gentle touch. Many retirement communities offer pet therapy programs, which give residents the opportunity to interact with dogs, cats, rabbits, and even miniature horses. The act of petting, grooming, or holding a furry friend is known to help older adults reduce stress, ease anxiety, and boost feelings of happiness.

At Bethany Village, we understand the importance of person-centered care and the power of human touch in caregiving for older adults. Following our philosophy of Faithful Caring, we believe in caring for the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Our community is filled with care professionals who are passionate about creating connections with residents to protect their health and promote happiness.

To learn more about Living at Bethany Village, please contact us today. We would be delighted to speak with you!

Written by Bethany Village

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