A Hug for Your Health: How Hugs Can Help Seniors Thrive
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Remember during the height of the pandemic, when social distancing was the norm and we needed to be satisfied with virtual visits? One of the most fundamental aspects of being a human – physical touch – was set aside in order to protect us all from harm, especially for the most vulnerable of our population: older adults. Yet while our intention was certainly to help seniors thrive and stay well, we may have unintentionally brought about the exact opposite effect.
We quickly found that removing physical contact with each other caused a great deal of harm in and of itself. It is particularly necessary for senior loved ones who have experienced loneliness or isolation to feel connected to those they love, and there is a straightforward but highly beneficial solution: hugs.
Research has revealed the following incredible health effects obtained by giving and receiving hugs:
A strengthened immune system
Fewer negative emotions, such as loneliness and anger
An improvement in positive emotions, such as contentment, security, and happiness
Improved circulation within the body
Improved sleep and glucose metabolism
Regulation of the creation of white blood cells
Lower blood pressure and a regulated heart rate
One senior care facility in New York tested the effect of hugs on older adults with a program called “Embraceable You.” This voluntary program drew 200 participants who rated their current level of satisfaction with their wellbeing and general health. In addition they noted the amount of casual touch experienced in their lives. Trained “hug ambassadors” were brought in to administer appropriate types of touch, while residents were given buttons to wear if they were interested in participating in the hug experiment.
Throughout the study, residents were given a token for every hug they received. In a short time, residents were seeking out huggers, and by the end of the first week, they had accumulated nearly 1,400 hugs.
At the conclusion of the study, the participants were interviewed and separated into two categories: low contact (one or two instances of physical contact daily) and high contact (more than three instances daily). The high contact participants overwhelmingly noted higher levels of satisfaction in the following areas:
Able to concentrate well (93%)
Not feeling depressed or hopeless (97%)
Sleeping well (71%)
Interest in doing things (88%)
Feeling energetic (66%)
It just goes to show what an incredible difference such a seemingly insignificant display of affection can make for the senior loved ones in your life.