Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

The Healing Power of Touch

The Healing Power of Touch
Stop for one moment and think about all the ways you have physically touched — or been touched by — someone recently. Perhaps it was a warm hug from an old friend, holding hands with that special someone, or a caring arm around your shoulder. It could even be a friendly handshake with someone new or an enthusiastic high five with a co-worker. Think about those moments and how they made you feel. Cared for ... loved … comforted … connected ... happy.

Touch is a powerful healing tool. The casual or affectionate touches we experience go a long way to improve our mental and physical health. When we are touched in a positive way, our bodies release oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, and decrease the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can lower blood pressure, lessen stress and anxiety, and decrease the symptoms of depression, such as fatigue and irritability. Your immune system can benefit as well, and your risk of heart disease can go down.
"Today's doctors have many tools that give them significant information about their patients; in fact, you can be anywhere in the world and still receive this info," says Dr. Noah Marco, chief medical officer for the Jewish Home. "Yet what modern medicine is in danger of losing is one of the most powerful tools in healthcare: the healing nature of human touch. When I touch my patients, I believe I am conveying to them that I am present with them to help them through their journey."
The same benefits hold true for the healing touch we receive when we get a massage. In addition to all the benefits a casual touch brings, a professional massage can also relieve physical pain and decrease autoimmune illnesses, such as lupus and arthritis. On an emotional level, massage can help you cope during a troubling time and help you deal with the effects of a past trauma.
Another simple way to enjoy a healing touch is by making an appointment with your hairdresser or barber. Yes, just sitting down in that chair is the beginning of some well-deserved and oxytocin-producing happy time. From the shampoo, which hopefully includes an invigorating scalp massage, to the blowout, a marvelous combination of the sensations of brushing and warmth, the experience is guaranteed to lift and calm your spirits. And, as an extra added benefit, you feel refreshed and ready to face the world.
At the Jewish Home, many of our residents have regular standing appointments at our beauty salons. The desire to look our best is part of our psyche at any age, and the healing power of our hairdressers is bountiful.
For resident Esther Weiss, 93, a visit to the Eisenberg Village beauty salon is a regular treat she enjoys tremendously. "When I was younger, I had a standing appointment with my hairdresser each week," she says. "Having a salon here on campus helps me easily continue that routine, and it's so important. Some of us may have forgotten the joys of "special" appointments. It makes me feel good…still young, still beautiful."
Fred White, 86, also enjoys his regular visit with barber Hershel Smuckler. "It's relaxing, and I feel great when I leave!"  Herschel has been cutting hair at the Home since he retired 18 years ago. "It gives me great pleasure to make the residents feel and look good."
Ninety-seven year old Evelyn Lipka appreciates the transformative experience of a visit to the salon. "When I come out of the shop, I feel like a new person," she says. "I feel good about myself and it lifts my spirits."
Hairdresser Ana Servin has been pampering the ladies, and some of the gentlemen, of the Home for 29 years. "I feel blessed to be able to show our residents some love, and it also makes me feel good. We all need it, especially as we get older."
The Jewish Home thanks all of our wonderful hairdressers for showing such care and compassion for our residents:
Vallada Bakaitis  /  Tamara Chizhik  /  Riva Lerman
Hershel Smuckler  /  Ana Servin  /  Myriam Stanley

And remember … share a healing touch with someone every day! It's good for them, and good for you.