When was the last time you gave or received a hug? For 89-year-old Janet Janis, it was yesterday, when her Visiting Angels caregiver surprised Janis with an impromptu drop-in.

Janis is a widow and relies on her Visiting Angels CNA for company and non-medical assistance. According to KSL, the thoughtful hug made Janis’ day.

Visiting Angels is a national franchise that provides personalized in-home care for older adults. This includes companionship, respite care and more.

Hugging and your health

According to KSL, this week, nearly all of Visiting Angels’ 100 clients in the Salt Lake valley will be getting an extra Valentine’s Day visit. And, if they want, the visit can include a warm hug, just like Janis’.

So why is this important? Well, roughly four in 10 adults aged 52 to 71 consider themselves lonely, according to research. Moreover, the Pew Research Center reports that more than one-quarter of Americans age 65 or older live alone, increasing feelings of social isolation.

These feelings don’t just take a mental toll — a study in the journal Heart, found that people who are lonely or socially isolated are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke than people with stronger social connections. Further research found that loneliness increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Companionship and consensual physical touch, however, have been proven to offset loneliness-related health detriments. Science says hugging, in particular, can work wonders for an individual’s health.

“Interpersonal touch is emerging as an important topic in the study of adult relationships,” stated research published in the journal PLOS One. This study found that hugging a loved one can lighten their mood, while other research cited hugging’s role as a stress reliever and protector against pathogens. “Greater perceived support and more-frequent hugs each predicted less-severe illness signs,” research in the Association for Psychological Science confirmed.

Hugs not drugs?

Well, technically you can have both — hugging your loved one will send their oxytocin hormone levels soaring. Conveniently, oxytocin is sometimes called “the love drug.”

So, as a cherry on top of your loved ones’ Valentine’s Day, ask them if they want a hug. And if it makes their day like it made Janis’, luckily hugging isn’t reserved just for holidays.

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