While massage is beneficial for everyone, it is even more important when people age. Touch is a basic human need and, unfortunately, seniors get less of it as they get older. This is because, according to Matthew Hertenstein, PhD, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, Americans live in a “touch phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.”
Studies by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute indicate that touch can help lessen pain, lower blood sugar, slow heart rates, lower blood pressure, calm people suffering from dementia and boost the immune system.
Unfortunately, seniors get the least amount of touch among all age groups. This is because very often they live alone and have lost friends or spouses that were close to them. Touch for seniors is especially important because they may suffer from a lack of social interaction, depression and chronic illness. Society today also has a preoccupation with digital interaction versus the personal physical contact that seniors enjoyed when they were younger.
Here are ways to help your parent, or another person you care about, receive the physical touch that all humans require:
Hug when you see them and before you leave. This may seem natural, but too often it is forgotten, especially if they are in a wheelchair or reclining in bed where a hug is more difficult.
Hold their hand and look at them while you’re talking to them. This touch and eye contact forms a deeper bond.
Offer your hand or arm while walking with them. A big fear of seniors is falling down. This offer of assistance shows the willingness to support them.
Brush their hair. This can be a very personal way to make a connection. It can make seniors feel more youthful.
Give them a back or foot rub. Since some people may not be comfortable with this, it is then better to SCHEDULE REGULAR MASSAGES FOR THEM. This can accomplish all the objectives that have been discussed.
The message of all touch is very simple. Humans are programmed to form emotional bonds that tend to strengthen relationships. Talking to each other facilitates those bonds, but physical touch can confirm them and relay a message that words just cannot.