Importance of Touch for Seniors & the Elderly (Plus 8 Ways To Do It Right)

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Physical touch has been shown to boost the immune system and emotional health. Plus, it's an important part of socialization. Learn more about the necessity of physical touch for older adults and ways you can increase physical contact in their lives.

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Any person, whether young or old, can benefit from touch. As we grow older and our loved ones move on with their lives, we might miss physical touch and feel quite lonely.

Therefore, if you have a senior loved one, you need to exercise physical touch as much as possible to help them feel appreciated and loved.

Why Is Touch Important For Seniors?

1. Boosts The Immune System

Whether it’s in the form of a massage or a hug, physical touch improves the immune system tremendously. For a senior adult, this could mean a lot when it comes to improving their health.

Physical touch releases cortisol that improves the immune system thereby boosting their overall health as they get older.

2. Boosts Emotional Health

Physical touch for senior adults releases serotonin which acts as the body’s antidepressant. As such, when you hug your senior loved one or massage their feet/hands, you are inherently helping them fight anxiety, depression, stress and also improve their sleep. It also improves their concentration and memory.

3. Improve Socialization

Physical touch allows seniors to socially connect with other people. Seniors who have a limited ability to interact with others can appreciate this powerful benefit of touch. Physical touch allows senior citizens to interact with people on a personal level and avoid feeling lonely.

How To Initiate Physical Touch For Senior Loved Ones

Now that you know the importance of physical touch for seniors, here are the best ways to make sure they enjoy these benefits.

Hugs Are Important

Hug your senior loved ones when you visit them and when you are departing. Make sure it’s a complete hug where they feel the love and appreciation you have for them.

Eye Contact

Look into their eyes and hold their hands when you are making conversation. They will feel the warmth that comes with spending time together.

Offer a Hand

When taking walks in the park or simply exercising around the neighborhood, you can offer your arm or hold their hand. They will feel the warmth that comes with this small gesture and feels appreciated.

Ask for a Dance

Take time to dance together. You can play old songs they listened to when they were younger or simple music that helps them move around without hurting themselves. Dancing together is a form of physical touch that helps your senior loved one exercise and feel appreciated.

Help With Personal Care

Take time to brush your senior loved one’s hair or style it. Maybe it’s been a while since she groomed herself properly and has been having a hard time doing it due to old age.

Well, as you share stories, you can bring out the hair preparation tools and comb her hair, moisturize it and style it. She will definitely love the physical touch and the special moments that you share together.

Offer a Light Massage

Give your senior loved one a back rub or a foot rub. The surest way of making sure that your elderly loved one enjoys physical touch is through massage.

As we grow older, our feet start becoming dryer and you can help moisturize them to keep them soft and supple. Your loved one will appreciate the effort that you take into giving foot rubs or a back rub.

Sit Close

Sit next together on a sofa or at the edge of their bed if they are not mobile. Rather than sitting in different chairs when you visit, you should sit in the same chair with your loved one close together.

You can take the time to watch a movie together, read a book together or share any activity that you feel will help them feel less lonely.

Involve the Pets

Bring a pet so your loved one can touch it and feel good about themselves. Physical touch in the form of pets can also do wonders for your senior loved one’s emotional health. They can avoid loneliness and have a pet to take care of in their old age.

Conclusion

Physical touch is very important to senior loved ones as they get older. Take the time to make them feel appreciated in the simplest ways as those mentioned above.

By sharing time with them and performing these simple acts of physical touch, you can help them avoid loneliness or depression. Even better, it’s a great bonding session with your loved one.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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