Touch

Touch

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The thought of touch brings the hands and fingers to my mind. I remember in a writing class I once took where the instructor had us put our hand into a paper bag and feel what was inside it without looking at the contents. We were then to write what that sense of touch felt like. It was cool, silky soft, loose and yet it felt as if it glided off my fingers or maybe it was flowing. It was kind of hard to tell. My mind said it couldn’t be liquid because it was in a paper bag so whatever it was felt like smooth water running through my fingers. It turned out to be flour. The experiment wasn’t meant to test if your senses were working right. It was a practice on how to use the senses to help the reader feel what you’re trying to portray through your writing. Now as I get older describing what something feels like to the touch is not much clearer to me than my lack of hearing can often describe. So, I have to depend a lot on my memory for that in my writing.

But the body itself from the inside out responds to touch beginning at the skin level than beneath that to the nerve endings that send a signal to the brain. All we have to do is look at our skin how it’s thinning, less taut and the lack of elasticity plays a big part in how we once determined our sense of touch. This loss occurs immediately below the skin where there is less fat protection and decreased numbers of nerve endings. All this contributes to the inability to detect pain to a certain degree. One of the things I’ve noticed is that I bruise easier. I don’t even remember hitting anything that hard to create a bruise only proving that my own lack of sensitivity to pain has decreased. Another thing to take into consideration is that we don’t always realize that the heating pad we’re using is too hot or the shower water. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees F is recommended.

As with all the sense there is some loss but many other factors can play into it as well such as poor blood circulation, diabetes or other diseases, neurological disorders and certain mental illnesses, and of course certain drugs and medical treatments. Sometimes we suffer with things that  we don’t have to. If we just discuss what we’re feeling with our doctors maybe a few changes could help.

Finally, there is one other kind of touch that older people often don’t get enough of, it’s called “touch hunger.” I often hear friends who have lost a loved one mention that what they miss most is being hugged, embraced and touched. Often too there’s a feeling that comes with age as if you are disappearing in the background of life. Maybe people think we are too fragile to hug, pat on the back or squeeze our hand, yet the simplest of touches can remind us that we are still alive and we do matter in this life. This is were having a furry friend can be very helpful too. There’s nothing like having the unconditional love of a pet.

“Our Aging Senses”

Frogs

When I was growing up, I was taught to be mindful of my surrounds to see, hear and speak no evil. My senses were sharp and quick back then. Now that I’ve gotten older I don’t have to put my hands over my eyes and ears, but maybe keeping them over my mouth isn’t such a bad idea. I often don’t hear half of what’s said. That, in turn, tends to distort what I think I see also. What slips out of my mouth is a distortion of my senses.

“What’s that? Did you say, Pat’s getting fat?”

“No! I said that’s a great hat!”

My Dad was an expert in this department, and he would come out with the funniest things he thought he’d heard. He’d have us all laughing and got a kick out it as much as we did. Now I do the same thing. Being able to laugh along with everyone else is a good thing. But it’s not always funny and sometimes even embarrassing. Worst of all it can be quite isolating.

I bring the topic of our 5-senses up because I’ve been hearing a lot of thought-provoking stories on the subject and how it relates to getting older. It is after all our hearing, vision, touch, taste and smell that gives us valuable information about our surroundings. One of the things I learned was that as we age our brains begin to shrink and that in turn makes our senses less sharp. That, in turn, makes it harder for us to detect the critical details that allow us to function socially as well as safe in the world. The more I reached the subject I realized I’d have to break this article up into sections. There is so much information about how each of our senses changes with age that I thought it was worth talking about one at a time.

When I have questions about the changes going on in my own life, I do my research. First, I’m looking to be informed. Second, I’m looking for solutions. If there are none, then I’ll find a way to live with it. It’s all about having the best quality of life and working with what we have. One thing I learned over the years caring for my loved ones was how vital it is to be informed but most of all to be the best advocate we can for ourselves.

So stay tuned, next week I’ll share what I’ve learned about hearing loss.