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Importance of Human Touch

I just want someone to talk to,

And a little of that human touch…

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen may not have been singing from the perspective of the country’s elderly when he wrote the song “Human Touch,” but the words certainly ring familiar for many older seniors. There is a lot to be said about the importance of maintaining a human touch as we age.

We have a wealth of technological innovations today that have enhanced our ability to get things done and stay connected with people, but there is still something to be said for time well-spent one-on-one. Texting, emailing and social media capabilities all have their role, but they don’t compare to the power of human touch and social interaction in chasing away feelings of isolation and loneliness, particularly among the elderly. Still, developing products aimed at America’s senior population remains a hot sector within the technology space.

It’s impractical to look to technology to manage or solve all the elderly’s day-to-day living challenges, as I explained recently in a Huffington Post column. One thing is certain: technology can do many things to make tasks easier, but innovation alone can never wholly replicate the value of working with a caregiver. The companionship and warm, trusted friendships you provide, as well as your obvious practical caregiving skills, can be a lifeline for seniors with otherwise limited social circles.

Indeed, research underscores the importance of social interaction among older adults. As the University of Rochester Medical Center succinctly wrote, “Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help (seniors) maintain good physical and emotional health, and cognitive function.” The medical center outlines the advantages of having strong social interactions — and the downside of infrequent human contact:

Specific health benefits of social interaction in older adults include:

  • Potentially reduced risk for cardiovascular problems, some cancers, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Potentially reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk for mental health issues such as depression

Conversely, there are real risks associated with social isolation, including:

  • Feeling lonely and depressed
  • Being less physically active
  • Having a greater risk of death
  • Having high blood pressure

As caregivers, you play a vital role in the lives of those in your care. While there are a great many ways that technology can and will help you do the work you do, never lose sight of the fact that your friendly smile, encouraging words, and friendly conversations are what really contribute to a happier, healthier life for that senior!

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