Senior Living: The hug: a miracle drug

Did you know that January 21st was “National Hugging Day?” Neither did I, but I think it is never too late to celebrate!

What could be better than giving or receiving a hug? It doesn't cost anything, has no calories or trans fats, and makes both the giver and the receiver feel good.

Hugs are natural, organic, and free of pesticides and preservatives. They contain no artificial ingredients, no caffeine or nicotine and do not require batteries.

Hugs could be considered a miracle drug. Hugs assist our body's immune system, help to cure depression, reduce stress, induce sleep and can invigorate and rejuvenate. They contain no unpleasant side effects.

We can hug people, pets, and even our teddy bear. And in today's modern Web-connected world, there is even a site that anyone can go to once a week at a specified hour and watch a video and get a hug from cyber-space.

Many hospitals have “baby cuddler” volunteer programs where babies who must be hospitalized for an extended period of time are cuddled by volunteers. This is to supplement the cuddling by family and friends. Since parents must often take care of other children at home, as well as maintain their employment, volunteers are vital in supplementing the parental cuddling.

Early cuddling is vital to a child's emotional well-being. Infants cared for by volunteer cuddlers may demonstrate greater growth, physiological stability and have shorter hospital stays than babies without cuddling.

Babies may be helped to develop social skills, increased learning ability, and stronger self-esteem. On the other hand, under-stimulated babies who have suffered neglect may struggle to form secure relationships when they are older.

However, when we can't give a hug, such as when a person has a communicable illness, here are a few substitutions. How about a kind word, a touch, a loving smile, a “Forgive me,” a “Can I help you?” an “I'm sorry.” All of these words and actions make a person feel good about him or herself. And more often than not, the giver feels just as good as the receiver. Now go find someone to hug!

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, 790-0123, ext. 225.

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