October 19, 2022 by Dean Bellefeuille

happy hugging seniors

Remember during the height of the pandemic, when social distancing was the norm and we had to settle for virtual visits? One of the most fundamental aspects of being a human – physical touch – was put aside in order to protect all of us from harm.

However, we quickly discovered that eliminating physical contact with each other caused a great deal of harm in and of itself. It is especially important for the elderly who have experienced loneliness or isolation to feel connected to those they love, and there is an easy but highly beneficial solution: hugs.

Research has uncovered the following incredible health benefits obtained by giving and receiving hugs:

  • A strengthened immune system
  • Regulation of the production of white blood cells
  • Improved sleep and glucose metabolism
  • Reduced stress
  • Fewer negative emotions, such as loneliness and anger
  • A boost in positive emotions, such as contentment, security, and happiness
  • A regulated heart rate and lower blood pressure
  • Increased circulation within the body
  • Reduced pain

One retirement home in New York tested the impact of hugs on older persons with a program called “Embraceable You.” This voluntary program drew 200 participants who rated their current degree of satisfaction with their well-being and general health. They also noted the level of casual touch experienced in their lives. Trained “hug ambassadors” were brought in to administer appropriate forms 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 end of the study, the participants were surveyed and separated into two categories: low contact (one or two instances of physical contact each day) and high contact (more than three instances each day). The high contact participants overwhelmingly noted higher amounts of satisfaction in the following areas:

  • Able to concentrate well (93%)
  • Not feeling hopeless or depressed (97%)
  • Sleeping well (71%)
  • Interest in doing things (88%)
  • Feeling energetic (66%)

It just goes to show what an unbelievable difference such a seemingly insignificant display of affection can make for the elderly that you know.

Reach out to At Home Independent Living at (315) 579-HOME (4663) to learn more strategies to improve senior health, and how our in-home care can make a difference in the life of someone you love.