The Values of Touch Through Life

Close up of holding hands in the sunset

© Rido/Dollar Photo Club

Have you ever thought about how much touch is a part of our lives? Touch actually begins in the womb, according to Dr. David Linden and Martha Thomas in an article in the AARP magazine titled, The Amazing Power of Touch. Emotional bonds are forged through touch with our children, with our parents, our friends as social touch and when we’re older we experience sexual touch. The value of touch cannot be underestimated.

Babies who lack touch, have delayed growth, and develop cognitive and behaviors issues that persist through adulthood, the author’s state. An 18th-century English physician, Thomas Fuller wrote “Seeing’s Believing”, but “Feeling’s the Truth.” Think about that for a minute.

One study demonstrated that doctors are perceived as more caring when they touch their patients, and the result is improved patient outcomes. In the book Touch, author Tiffany Field states that as we age, we are touched less; and since the process of aging diminishes our sensation, touch becomes even more important.

Massage is a wonderful way to experience touch while it leads to relief from discomforts. Therapeutic touch, the authors report, can lead to decreased levels of stress and cortisol, the stress hormone. Oxytocin, the hormone that contributes to the bonding between mother and child is released when stress levels are reduced, and this enhances the bonding experience.

In what other ways can we garner the benefits of touch?

We can do gentle self-massage when we shower by just rubbing our skin.  Dancing, getting or giving massages are other ways to experience touch.  And, my personal favorite is petting a dog, where simple touch can actually boost the hormone levels in our brain while lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

At the Hebrew Home, a skilled nursing facility in Riverdale, New York, the management believes in touch and its benefits, and their staff have been encouraged to provide touch to their residents.  The home is particularly known for their approach to sexual health and well-being.  They have a policy titled Sexual Expression that permits consensual sexual behavior in the home, and have even developed a video used in mandatory training instituted by New York State. Touch and sexual intimacy are viewed in New York as civil rights of residents in long-term care.

Touch leads to connections and intimacy and to sensations that are comforting and necessary for our health and well-being. Touch and the resultant social interactions should be included as necessary for our daily lives to promote health and wellness.

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