In the last two or three years, there has been a movement to take small children and babies into care homes, so that the old people can have the pleasure of interacting with tiny tots and the children enjoy the experience too. They’re too young to mind if the elderly people have hairy chins or say the same thing a few times and everyone enjoys the visit, including the parents who realise how much love there is between the generations. A few young friends of mine have taken their babies along and enthused about it.
I used to take Meals on Wheels to a nice old man who lived in the village. After his wife died, he’d had a long relationship with another woman, a widow, who kept her own home but spent a lot of time at his. This is not at all unusual now, at whatever age, but was then. But then she died and he was quite lonely, not for company but for touch. I got that, I knew that when he wanted a big, enveloping hug, he wasn’t behaving inappropriately but showing a need – in fact, once, I remember him muttering “oh, that’s what I need, that’s what I need.”
We used to be quite reticent in this country and it’s one of the big changes in society, that we all hug and kiss each other nowadays – just socially, as they do in some Continental societies. I say “all” but that’s not really the case. Some people are quite uncomfortable with it and feel that kissing should be reserved for spouses and children, but even those less tactile ones go along with it if they have to. I generally go by instinct, whether someone will welcome a hug or not – body language, I suppose.
There is, of course, the social hug/kiss and the warm one and the loving one and probably a few more nuances – like the intergenerational one I started with. I remember once impulsively kissing the cheek of an old lady I didn’t know all that well but was fond of, and she just blossomed. She was surprised and so pleased.
I’m not going anywhere with this really except to say, touch matters and hugs matter. If one is really non-tactile then that may not be possible, but there are a lot of people who simply crave a moment of warmth with someone friendly. Even when Eloise cat cuddles up to me, I feel soothed and cheered. I never mind her waking me in the night, because we both feel happier for the contact.