Human caring touch is vital in our lives-
Extensive research by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute has revealed that human touch has wide-ranging physical and emotional benefits for people of all age groups. In the Institute’s experiments, touch lessened pain, improved pulmonary function, increased growth in infants, lowered blood glucose and improved immune function. Human touch is important for all ages, but by the time children reach their teen years, they receive only half as much touching as they did in the early part of their lives. Adults touch each other even less.
Newborns that are touched gain weight faster and have superior mental and motor skill development—an advantage they retain for months. Touching on the back and legs generally soothes babies while touching on the face, belly and feet tends to excite them. In the earliest stages of a child’s life, touch is a critical part of the establishment of a bond between parent and child. It is also the earliest form of parent-child communication.
Researchers at the University of Miami Touch Research Institute found that touch with moderate pressure stimulates a cranial nerve that slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. This produces a state that is relaxed but more attentive. Touch also reduces stress hormones and may enhance immune function. In a Touch Research Institute study, medical staff and students that received massages for 15 minutes a day over the course of a month were more accurate and took less time on math performance tests than their counterparts who did not receive massages.
Seniors Touch and Elders Senior citizens receive the least touching of any age group. Isolation, loss of loved ones, loss of home and independence — we often think of these things as primary causes of depression in the elderly, but what about the loss of human touch? People confined to nursing homes rarely get more than daily hygienic care and the stigma of touching elders seems to contribute to their physical isolation.
Elders need touch as much as infants, studies show that when they receive regular massage, the elderly have less depression and anxiety, experience better physical coordination, and show a decrease of stress hormone in their saliva. One study showed that elders who participated as volunteer grandparents in a program to give massage to abused infants experienced the same benefits as when they themselves received massage.
Simply by giving touch, they were able to improve their own health. Geriatric massage is a growing field requiring specialized training and many massage therapists offer it in their practices. Some nursing homes now provide massage to their residents. In my own work, I’ve found that elders respond as well to the bodywork, if not sometimes better, than their younger counterparts. Perhaps one of our biggest responsibilities is caring for our seniors. Senior massage is a wonderful way to respond to this charge, and provides them with many physical, as well as psychological, benefits.
This very important segment of our population often feels a sense of isolation or loneliness, and some medications can contribute to depression, which can often exacerbate these feelings of seclusion. Massage can be an effective tool in helping seniors reconnect with their bodies and allowing them to verbalize feelings of sadness about the death of a partner or the loss of their friends and loved ones. Human connection is vital to all of us, and massage provides a safe situation in which seniors can experience human touch, care, and concern. Seniors also have different requirements than the younger population: their skin is thinner, and bruises or tears easily. They may have arthritis or osteoarthritis, which would call for a special type of massage.
They also generally have less muscle tissue than a younger person, so a gentle touch is necessary. Elder massage is an important tool to use in creating a sense of well-being and tranquility. Seniors also find satisfaction in the knowledge that they are doing something for their body that enhances wellness, is excellent for their general health, and provides many benefits. Many seniors have found that massage alleviates low-back and hip pain, providing increased range of motion and allowing them to experience more freedom of movement; this, in turn, can give the impetus they need to exercise more frequently, which is always beneficial.
This is a time in their lives when they have concerns such as control of blood sugars, blood pressure, heart health, and bone health. Massage can be a key component in addressing each of these conditions, as well as enhancing the immune system by stimulating lymph flow, our bodies’ natural defense system. Two additional benefits of massage are increased circulation to joints and tissues, and increased endorphins, which cause that natural feeling of euphoria! Consider a gift certificate for a family member, neighbor, or friend who may need therapeutic touch, and always look for a massage therapist who specializes in elder or senior massage, (I have over 10 years of experience in Geriatric massage) as that person will have the knowledge and skills necessary to assist this very important and growing part of our society: our elderly!