The role of human touch in aging

Modern technology allows many seniors to keep in touch with family and current events. However, this technology cannot replace meaningful human interaction. In fact, companionship and human contact has been found to:

  • Decrease loneliness

  • Decrease the risk for cognitive impairment

  • Increase the physical health of seniors

One recent research review by Clifford Singer, MD found that different methods of contacting seniors have different levels of influence on the senior's feelings of loneliness. In one study, the seniors that had face-to-face contact with children, family, or friends once or twice a week had the lowest depression rate.

Dr. Singer writes,

Given the mobile nature of our society, social relationships frequently are maintained at a distance through telephone contact, email, and social media when physical contact is not practical. Interventions relying on technology to reduce isolation may be better than no intervention at all, but they are not the same as in-person visits.

Companionship can also provide an important safeguard for older adults at home, as a second set of eyes and ears can help identify any red flags.

It is important to note that in some cases, a phone call to your loved one may be more appropriate. For example, this may be the case if your loved one is easily exhausted by social interactions. Dr. Singer adds to his previous point by writing,

If a person is prone to depression, is physically frail, or the relationship causes tension, a phone call may be as good (or better) than in-person contact.

In conclusion, seniors can benefit greatly from human touch and social interaction with friends and family, as long as it is kept to a level that they prefer.

Source: Singer, Clifford. "Health effects of social isolation and loneliness." Journal of Aging Life Care 28.1 (2018): 4-8.