A Smile, A Hug and the Power of Positivity in Assisted Living

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 19 April 2012

How many hugs do you give or receive each day? When was the last time you held someone’s hand, or had a friend pat you on the back (not figuratively)? Physical contact, no matter how brief, delivers a profound message that often resonates more deeply and accurately than mere words.

A number of recent studies point to this truth, according to an article “Evidence That Little Touches Do Mean So Much” from the New York Times. Consider the following example: “a sympathetic touch from a doctor leaves people with the impression that the visit lasted twice as long” when juxtaposed with estimates from those who did not receive the same affirming touch. (Read the full article for other amazing study results.)

Imagine the difference to be made if the staff in assisted living greeted residents not only with a smile but also with a firm, reassuring handshake or hug around the shoulders? Imagine the value for residents with Alzheimer’s or stroke victims who cannot communicate in words or speech?

Certainly there are boundaries to respect and standards to uphold so as not to violate a person’s trust or comfort level, but we should not be afraid to reach out when the merits are so significant.

Your turn: Do you agree that appropriate physical touch has a place in assisted living?


There are 9 Comments about this post

  1. This is absolutely a recommended gesture because the residents of assisted living facilities are far from their loved ones and thus they feel lonely. They need all acts of care and love and by giving them a nice smile and warm embrace, these seniors will feel that they’re special and important.


    on 20 April 2012 / 9:13 AM

  2. Yes, so true! Well-said, Beatrix. Thanks for your comment.


    on 20 April 2012 / 10:08 AM

  3. Catherine McCrum says,

    I often position wheelchair residents side-by-side ‘facing’ each other and position a hand in the others. While holding hands and facing each other, quite often they engage in seemingly interesting conversation. While I may not understand the subject of their communication, they seem to be both listening and talking – sharing??? CAUTION: this does not work if a resident grips too tightly or pulls or grabs. On fragile elderly skin this can easily bruise or possibly break skin or bones.


    on 22 April 2012 / 8:45 PM

  4. Catherine, what a wonderful idea (and thanks for word of caution too)! That is fascinating, that individuals seem to engage in interesting conversation when seated/positioned that way. I appreciate you sharing this and stopping by the blog!


    on 23 April 2012 / 11:41 AM

  5. There was a time when the special activities offered by retirement homes were Fourth of July and family weekends or maybe a quarterly round to the nursery. This is something that happened a decade back. The facilities and activities have changed to ages.


    on 08 June 2012 / 10:44 AM

  6. That is true — there are a lot more activities in today’s retirement communities.


    on 11 June 2012 / 8:41 AM

  7. [...] our post, A Smile, A Hug and the Power of Positivity in Assisted Living, to learn more about the importance of appropriate physical touch and interactions with others for [...]


    on 31 October 2012 / 3:02 PM

  8. Alvarez says,

    Moving to assisted living can be a contentious, difficult process for a family. The residents need all care and love specially when they just moved in.


    on 14 August 2013 / 9:57 PM

  9. That’s true. Thanks for your comment!


    on 16 August 2013 / 11:10 AM


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