Like you, I was tempted to roll my eyes when I first learned that January 21st has been declared a Nation Day of Hugging. Then, I thought back to all the times in which I really needed a hug, and felt a little less skeptical. Just yesterday, I tripped and skinned and my knee, something which hasn’t happened since I was a little child. A jogger happened to be passing by, and helped scoop me up with an outstretched hand. That brief second when our hands touched, was a calming one. The young man helped steady me with a hand on my shoulder, and asked me if I was alright. Suddenly, I felt slightly less frazzled by that unexpected ‘trip’, and was surprisingly comforted by the hand of a stranger.
I had a conversation with April Boykin, MSW, LCSW, of Counseling Resource Services, Inc. in Oviedo about my little misstep, and its warm and fuzzy after effects. April is strong believe the healing qualities of the human touch. She shared that there is actual science behind the benefits of a hug, or even a comforting touch. She commented, “’I’ve always heard that everyone needs nine hugs a day to stay happy and healthy. The reason why is because hugging releases oxytocin (the love hormone) into your brain and makes you feel good.” Boykin added, “In fact, touch such as hugs or massages increases dopamine and serotonin in the brain which are two neurotransmitters that help manage depression, stress and anxiety.”
Intrigued by the art of the hug, I reached out to the best hugger I know (And no, it is not my ‘main squeeze’, sorry honey!), my friend and colleague Judy Appleton. Each time I run into Judy, she makes sure we share a “heart-to heart”, or a joyful embrace of our moment together. Judy has seen the power of touch up- close- and -personal in her job as a *Jewish Pavilion Program Director at elder-care facilities in the Oviedo, Tuskawilla, and Winter Park areas.
When presenting her monthly or holiday programming, Judy makes a point of engaging in physical contact with the seniors she serves. While working her way around the room, Judy will stop and touch the hand or shoulder of each resident. Knowing that physical contact is infrequent for many of the seniors, Appleton knows that this may be the only touch they receive all day that is not medical in nature.
Judy commented that even her small touch receives a great response from the crowd. She recalled an afternoon when she put her hand on the shoulder of an elderly resident, who reached out and grabbed her hand right back. The senior became teary eyed, and Judy stood there for several minutes, connecting with this woman who literally needed a hand right at that moment.
Judy remarked, “A hug or a touch makes someone feel like they matter right at that moment of contact. They are no longer an invisible person in that room, but someone worthy of your attention.”
Who will you hug on January 21 (and the days in between)? I hope you stumble upon someone special to share a “heart-to-heart”.
*The Jewish Pavilion has four part-time Program Directors who bring community to seniors in more than 70 senior living communities throughout Orlando.
Tidbits from the Sandwich Generation is a series of blogs by Pamela Ruben, Jewish Pavilion Marketing Director, about managing the multi-generations. Check out additional posts at www.jewishpavilion.org/blog. For no cost help for issues pertaining to older adults, contact the Orlando Senior Help Desk, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, at 407-678-9363 or visit www.orlandoseniorhelpdesk.org.