The Power of Touch for Longevity

I love Italy for so many reasons but the Italians’ love of their parents leaves me envious. Ok, true confession time; I am on vacation in Capri, Italy, writing this as the sun beats on my Prosecco, while my eyes dart over the Mediterranean.

My father vacated my life when I was 7 years old and has since passed away. When I see middle-aged men walking down the streets of Capri with their elderly fathers on their arm I am jealous. Today, I watched a birthday party with four generations of men from Naples. The birthday boy, I surmised to be in his mid-eighties, sat in glee as all these men kissed and hugged him several times during the course of the meal. I sat and wondered if I would ever see a 55 year old American man kiss his dad on the face several times.

I love that Italians not only show their love openly and passionately but they understand something I think we Americans miss. They understand the medicine of touch. Think about it, when you are a kid, your parents kiss and hug you all the time. When you become an adult you find a spouse, who you sleep beside and have simple touches with throughout the day. We all love the simple stroke of the hair, holding hands or a great hug.

Then comes elderly life, men generally pass away first, an average of about two years earlier than women. This leaves many women widowed and they lose that touch, no little kids running to hug them daily, no spouse to sleep with, no warmth of another body.

I firmly believe this has a dramatic impact on our health and longevity. It may be why Italian men live an average of 2 years longer than their American counter parts and Italian women over four years longer than American women.

So children give your parents lots of hugs and kisses, it may be the best gift you ever provide them.



  1. Capability Homecare
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Your vacation sounds amazing, and how wonderful that you have taken the time to share your observations. It’s so true how a simple touch can mean so much. Thank you for the reminder that a hug, or a held hand, or even a pat on the back can bring joy.

    I remember when my grandfather was in the hospital and as I sat there visiting him I suddenly decided to massage his feet. I had NEVER even seen his feet before, yet as he lay there in this hospital bed, looking so frail and vulnerable, I somehow knew that was exactly what he needed. To be honest, it is one of my most treasured memories of that time I spent with him before he died.

  2. Paul L Lee
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Hi Dwayne,
    I agree with you, one of the keys to longevity is important to have a good family life.


  3. Susan Van Tuyl
    Posted July 1, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I found this website while looking for assisted living and alzheimer’s communities. You are a very compassionate man, from how you write.

    My mom thanksfully is still alert and independently living, but some relatives I have had have experienced heartache thru being vulnerable.

    I too have something in common with you as my dad left our family of four children with me the eldest, at the young age of 15. I helped work at MacDonald’s to support the family. The last words he said to me were, “Take care of your mom and brothers and sister.” I never saw him again. He died when I was 25 and pregnant with my first child. When I see dads loving their kids, I think how nice it would’ve been…. however, I try to change my life and own children’s lives by being there for them.

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