Occasionally, I will be going toward the altar at church and will see an elderly person waiting quietly in the pew for the minister to bring to them the Holy Communion. They are usually frail and do not feel that they can walk on their own very well. I am reminded of what my husband, who is also a priest in the Episcopal Church, often says about the elderly…“If they have lost the love of their life or have no family close by, they rarely have the human touch…the hug…the warmth of another human.” Knowing this, I might reach down and pat her (or him) on the shoulder and take their hand, without saying a word just so they know there is a touch in their life.
On researching this need for human touch, I found out the following:
“Upon birth, some babies require a little more attention at hospitals before they can leave with their parents to begin their life. Babies who receive stimulation in the form of touch have shown to grow and gain weight at rates faster than those who lack touch. They also experience fewer health issues in their first year. The simple act of a touch can lower stress levels (specifically the stress hormone cortisol) and regulate a proper body temperature in a baby’s body through the release of hormones.
The connection was realized upon finding out that children who grew up in environments such as orphanages, with less contact and engagement, had higher hormone levels compared to children raised with parents. In turn, this difference in environment can lead to many issues later in life – from a struggle to bond and behavioral issues.
However, some of the damage caused by touch deprivation can be reversed due to a change in environment – a study done in Romania in the 1980’s supports this, showing that in children aged six to twelve, those who lived in an orphanage for eight months or more possessed higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to those who lived in an orphanage for four months or less.” (taken from Youngzine..Renee)
When my youngest son was born, he had to stay in the hospital for several days because he was under-weight. As I went to visit him daily, I would often walk in and find him being rocked by a nurse or nurse’s helper. They called him their “Little Cowboy” because his hair had little sideburns. Seeing that he was being loved meant so much.
I also learned the truth about the need for touch and human development when I was teaching at a University in Ukraine. I visited two orphanages. One was State run and the other was a Christian run home for children. The children in the State-run orphanage did not smile. When we put them on our laps to try to talk with them and hug them, they did not seem to know how to respond. Nothing brought a smile to their faces. On arriving at the Christian orphanage, the atmosphere was completely different. The children were laughing, hanging onto their adult workers and seemed well adjusted in so many ways.
Recently my husband posted a video about a man who has made it his mission to give the tiny, often sick or premature babies the human touch they need. I’m going to share this video with my readers today because it is the life story of a senior person giving of himself to a new life on earth. He is making a difference.
Let this video touch your heart and think of reaching out yourself to someone who may need a “touch” of love.
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