Hugs and Healing

Winter 2020

 I recently read an article about the power of hugs.  Seriously, folks, there truly is science behind this statement.  I know I am a ferocious huger at Lifespan, and it helps to hear that there are important scientific reasons for what I believed intuitively.   A hug has several biological effects on us, from increasing the production of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that acts on the limpic system, reducing stress and anxiety, to the production of dopamine, creating that “feel good” feeling.  According to a 2014 study at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, they exposed participants to a virus and found that “Among infected participants, greater perceived support and more-frequent hugs each predicted less-severe illness signs.” There are of course many emotional benefits from hugs, including feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.  But for me, hugs are all about community.


When I talk about Lifespan and the programs we provide, I tell people about Lifespan Academy, Medical Escort Transportation and our efforts to start Partners in Health.  I also tell people that the most important thing we offer is a community.  We have great classes, instructors and educational programs at Academy.  All of our older adults are immensely grateful for their ride to the doctor through MET.  Perhaps less visible but what I consider far more important, is the opportunity we provide to see and be seen, a chance to be with kind people, and a connection to others who know and value our history.

This point was brought home to me in a note I received from a recent new Lifespan participant.  

I just wanted to say Lifespan’s staff and wonderful group of people helped in ways you will never know as the world I once knew came tumbling down.  Thank you for making my world a better place so I could heal amongst the group’s smiles, joy and laughter.  Now I’m back helping make others’ world a better place once again.

I come back to comments like these when people ask me what Lifespan is about.  Yes, we are a form of lifelong learning institute, committed to the concept that older adults never stop learning and teaching.  Yes, we are an advocate for older adults, and work with affiliate organizations to provide classes, referrals, information and direction for our participants as they age.  Yes, we are a service provider for older adults who face what is acknowledged as the single most difficult challenge for older adults in Atlanta – transportation.  We are all these things, and we hope to become the second set of ears for older adults in the doctor’s office through our Partners in Health Program.  But more than all of these things, we are a community of support for our older adults regardless of where they happen to be in navigating their third act.

So as you read our annual appeal on page 7, please remember all of these things.  Our Lifespan community is generous, and you have all supported our work throughout the year.  Our year end appeal is our one formal donation request and these gifts are essential to making our budget and continuing our work.  We appreciate any support you can offer.

If a donation isn’t possible for you, you can always give us a call and volunteer!!  That is absolutely one of the most significant contributions you can make.  But most important of all, please come and join us for our Winter Session of Lifespan Academy, our Book Club, the Atlanta Theatre to  Go Perfromance, our luncheons together.  And the one thing I can absolutely promise you is that you will get a hug!


Peggy Palmiter