The missing ingredient to preventing emotional damage from social isolation, while increasing resident satisfaction.

By Steve Moran

While I was in Paris I came across this article titled Soothing Touch Removes the Pain of Social Rejection. The big idea behind this article is that social media creates insolation and is prime vehicle for increasing social isolation and hurt feelings.   

Social Isolation and Seniors

It is perhaps paradoxical that while social media has a powerful potential to increase social isolation in younger and middle-aged people, it has powerful potential to decrease social isolation for seniors, which is why there is so much interest in interactive technology solutions like Senior Housing Forum partners, Lifeshare, Independa, and One Day.  

What is still missing though is physical touch. For a variety of reasons, as individuals enter their senior years the opportunity for physical touch for most decreases. Even spouses tend to touch less than they did when they were younger.   

By the time a resident moves into a senior living community, most of the touches come from two sources:

  1. Families members who offer a quick hug at the beginning and/or end of a visit.

  2. Caregivers who are helping with activities of daily living.

Would Touch Make A Difference?

This would actually be a fascinating research study for someone to do. If you were to take two senior living communities and have one where the staff made a conscious effort to hug and touch each of the residents each day and another that did business as usual, I am betting six things would happen in the first community:

  1. Resident satisfaction would go up

  2. Residents would be less demanding of staff

  3. Staff would be happier

  4. Residents would live longer

  5. Families would be more satisfied — you might even try giving them hugs too

  6. Word-of-mouth referrals would increase

Some Cautions

Doing this needs some thinking:

  1. You need to know how comfortable your residents are with what kinds of touch. Some may do better with a held hand, a pat on the back, a back rub or something else. There may even be a few where touch would be really bad.

  2. The touch needs to be genuine, this means some team members will be better at it than others.

  3. It will feel weird at first but will get more comfortable over time, so it will take some patience.

Take our Senior Housing Forum instant poll below to see where your organization is on the touch scale: