A Short Visit and a Hug Really Can Keep the Elderly in their Home and Independent Longer
Recently after a visit with a client who is pretty much home bound, she said to me, “I just feel so much lighter after your visits.” It wasn’t a work related visit that day, I had just stopped in to say hello. We hadn’t done anything special except share a cup of tea and some conversation. According to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “socialization is of great benefit for seniors–even those suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s. Engaging consistently in socialization improves a person’s life span and quality of life, slows cognitive decline and stabilizes mood.” This was what my friend was referring to when she said she felt lighter.
Then a few years ago on Christmas, I walked up the street to visit an old neighbor of ours who’d lost his wife earlier in the year. (As a side note, he had in fact been born in the house we now live in). I handed him a small plate of goodies and gave him a hug. I received a big bear hug in return and he said with great sincerity, “Oh that feels so good. I haven’t hugged anyone in so long.” My heart ached for him and I felt remiss for not being a better neighbor.
Our need for interaction and physical touch is well documented in studies beginning in the early 1940’s when Dr. Rene Spitz began to realize that babies in an orphanage were dying in spite of receiving proper nutrition and living in a very clean environment. This realization later gave birth to the understanding that touch is vital to our survival and not just in the very young. At every stage in our life, human touch is necessary for our sense of well being.
It doesn’t cost much but a little time to stop by an elderly neighbor’s home and make their day, or pop in and check on your aging aunt once or twice a week. Even a phone call can lighten their mood if you’re unable to drop by. 30 minutes from you, and a brief hug might not seem to be significant to you, but it could make a world of difference to your senior friend.