Touch is something that most of us take for granted. According to an article by Jane Simington on The Power of Expressive Touch, on the website humanehealthcare.com,
Touch is the earliest and most primitive form of communication. Even during fetal life, the maternal uterine waters sooth and massage the skin of the unborn child.
Touch releases Oxytocin, which is a feel good hormone. It is recommended that mothers massage their babies after birth which increases the Oxytocin level in both and helps them to feel calmer and relaxed. It is also good to massage the stomach to ease colic.
Jane Simington also tells us this story.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, orphanages had an infant mortality rate of nearly 100% and most of these infants died from “marasmus” or “a wasting away.” A major contributing factor in these deaths was a lack of physical contact, a lack of touching, and other caring behaviors.
The elderly people in our society are often alone for many hours and are starved of touch. In older people, Oxytocin lowers stress hormone levels, which results in lowering of the blood pressure, whilst increasing the tolerance to pain. It also helps to maintain good mood, which is a great advantage to the many depressed older adults.
Many old people experience only instrumental touch, that is to say, touch which has a specific physical purpose – for example, the dressing of a wound by a nurse, a carer helping them to get dressed or washed, but the effect of instrumental touch is not the same as that of expressive touch.
Jane Simington, in her article (see above) continues by telling us that,
Research into the psychological effects of touch on hospitalized patients has demonstrated that touching makes them feel cared about and less vulnerable.
We only need to give a hug to an old lonely person, or a person who others will not touch to see how they cling, not wishing the hug to end.
As Mother Theresa said,
Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.