November 24th, 2017

To Your Health: You can’t replace human touch


By Gillian Slade on July 31, 2017.

Technology is creating pathways to make it possible for seniors to stay in their own homes as they age but great danger is lurking too if we deprive them of the human touch.

There are devices that can prompt someone to take their medication at the right time. There are mechanisms to tell someone, some distance away, that a senior has fallen in his/her home. Another piece of technology even tells you when they got out of bed and when they opened the front or back door and went outside.

It sounds like a great solution, a win – win for the senior who is putting off moving into a seniors residence and there are cost savings for the health care system.

Who though is going to provide the human contact? I am not only thinking about the telephone call from a real person I mean someone meeting face to face with them, the hand that touches theirs, the arm around their shoulders for just a moment and enjoying a cup of coffee together to bring the world indoors for that senior.

Even self-service checkouts at grocery stores are impacting lonely seniors. There have been media reports of seniors who for years have timed there weekly trip to the grocery store, which takes great effort for many, when a certain friendly and chatty cashier is on duty. That is the person they want to process their items. One man said a specific cashier was the only person all week who asked him how he was doing and seemed genuinely interested.

We have become a rather cold society. If you don’t agree with me take a walk in a residential neigbourhood, perhaps one where you are not currently living, and see how many people you encounter along the way that will even look at you let alone say hello. I would be surprised if anyone stopped and engaged in any real conversation.

Many people would say that is just fine. When they go for a walk they don’t want to talk to people after a full day in the office and lots of talking there. That is exactly the point though. Someone who is aging, frail and living on their own, does not have the contact most of us get at the office. Many are desperate for human contact.

Deprive someone of that sort of human contact and depression sets is. That leads to all sorts of health-related issues.

We are surging ahead with technology and slowly dropping human courtesy and kindness.

Here’s to technology but not at the expensive of human touch and here’s To Your Health.

To Your Health is a weekly column by Gillian Slade, health reporter for the News, bringing you news on health issues and research from around the world. You can reach her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or 403-528-8635.


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