Touch is a sensation that is often neglected for the aged. Sometimes older folks lack physical contact because others fear to harm their fragile bodies. Sometimes, regretfully, many younger people have never been around the elderly, so fear the unknown. Whatever the reason, many times seniors find themselves alone, feeling unloved, and untouched.
Since coming to live with us, I’ve noticed that my octegenarian mother has a definite need for touch. Not being a touchy-feely person, I have to admit my contribution to her unmet need. Because she lives with us now and has left many of her friends in another state, Mom does not have the opportunity to meet with her peers frequently.
That is why I’ve noticed her attempts to receive hugs from her three year-old great grandson whom we frequently babysit. Unfortunately at his independent stage, Gavin is not interested in hugs. He would much rather watch “Dora the Explorer” or follow my husband around outside.
But, Mom persists in asking him for hugs, and he, just as persistently refuses. He’ll say, “I’m all out of hugs, Grammie.” Usually, he’ll eventually give her one, when he’s feeling generous.
The other day, I thought of a solution to this dilemma. When he was all out of hugs, I surprised him by squeezing him tight. “There,” I exclaimed. “Now you have a hug; I just gave you one. Now you can give one to Grammie.” Gavin thought it over, developed a crooked little grin on his face, and then ran to give Grammie a hug. We all got in on the act and felt better about each other. Touching can be contagious.
A gentle hug for older folks makes them feel like the treasures they are. Sometimes we inadvertently make them feel unneeded or wanted by not taking a few minutes to ask about their day, discuss their favorite quiz show, or comment on their glistening white hair. The elderly can so easily fade into the background when they’re not involved in current activities, or have trouble with sight or hearing.
Taking time to be kind to an elder will someday make more sense when we find ourselves on the other side of the rocking chair. So, find a senior today who needs a hug and gently squeeze them.
Dianna Brumfield lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband. Her eighty-seven year-old mother also lived with them until her recent passing. Dianna works for a women’s recovery home and enjoys gardening and spending time with her grandchildren.