On Missing the Human Touch During the Pandemic

The Covid-19 Pandemic has frightened many people, especially, us older ones.

We have been told if we get it, we are at the highest risk of having the most severe cases of this virus. We are also told we have the highest risk of dying from it.

Human contact is one way the virus spreads from one person to another. To protect ourselves, we have been told to stay home and only go out when absolutely necessary. When we do go out, we’re supposed to keep at least 6 feet apart from other people and to wear masks.

We are also urged not to shake hands with others. This includes giving a high five to others. We also are told not to hold hands.

We also are not supposed to hug anyone. When we hug another, we are at greatest risk if they have the virus because hugging can be when we’re in longest contact with them.

In their infinite wisdom, one thing the medical experts and government officials overlooked is how important it is for us to shake hands, give high fives, hold hands and hug other people.  It’s very difficult to stop doing these completely.

Shaking Hands – The Standard Form of Greeting

Shaking hands is common in the business and social world. It is a standard form of greeting someone we haven’t met before or whom we haven’t seen for some time. We also shake another’s hand to express our thanks to them for something they’ve said or done.  Last, we shake hands when we reach agreement with them on something or at the end of a meeting with them.

Holding Hands – a Sign of Bond with Another Person.

Most of us learned this when we were young. We held our parent’s or grandparent’s hand. Many times, we did this when we were insecure and holding our parent’s or grandparent’s hand helped us feel safe.

When we were dating someone, holding their hand let the world know we had a bond with them. As we grew older, we held hands with our loved ones or spouses. It was a sign the two of us were one.

The High Five

You normally see a High Five at a sporting event.  People on a team use it to congratulate one another on something well done or on something the team has accomplished.


Hugging is typically reserved for people who know each other well.

For friends, a hug is a sign of happiness and warmth at seeing them again when we part company. It’s also a sign of comfort, support and consolation to one who has experienced a loss. For those in love, it’s a sign of mutual affection.

Not all people are comfortable hugging.

People whose ancestors were from countries where signs of affection are expressed openly are more comfortable with it. They tend to hug those they know and, frequently, others they just meet for any reason at all. They will hug one person after another. Their hugs will last an extended period of time

Those who ancestors were from countries where signs of affection are not expressed openly are more reserved. They are only comfortable hugging family members and close personal friends. Typically, their hugs are as short as possible.

There is also a certain group of people who hug more frequently than others.  These are those whose primary love language is touch.

In his book, “The 5 Love languages,” Gary Chapman says there are 4 other love languages besides touch. Gary adds touch is the primary love language for 19% of the population.  Hugging is a key way for them to feel love and express their love to others.

Covid-19 Throws a Monkey Wrench Into Ways We Interact with Others

Now we are in a world where we can no longer use the standard forms of greeting people, celebrating with them or showing affection, that is, shaking hands, high fiving, holding hands or hugging.

In the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States, some suggested we do an “Elbow Bump” instead of a handshake. According to Wikipedia, the Elbow Bump originated in 2006 as a greeting during the Avarian Flu outbreak in 2006. It was suggested again during the Swine flu pandemic of 2009 and the influenza epidemic in 2012 and 2013.

There is only one problem. You can’t practice social distancing when you do an elbow bump. Elbow Bumps quickly fell out of favor.

Invariably when something like Covid-19 happens, people realize there is going to be a big problem if you suddenly have to stop doing things you have done all of your life. So, they come up with ways to replace them.

Strange Ways to Hug Differently

Some of these suggestions are strange.  Here are 2.

In an article, “How to hug in the age of COVID,” Tara Parker-Pope, listed the Dos and Don’ts of hugging based on the advice of experts. Here they are in abbreviated form.

  • Don’t hug face to face.
  • Do hug facing opposite directions. It prevents you from directly breathing each other’s exhaled particles. Wear a mask.
  • Don’t hug with cheeks together, facing the same direction.
  • Do let children hug you around the knees or waist. You should look away so as not to breathe down on the child.
  • Don’t breathe during the hug.
  • Do kiss your grandchild on the back of the head. In this scenario, the grandparent is minimally exposed to the child’s exhaled breath. The child could be exposed to the taller person’s breath, so kiss through a mask.
  • Don’t talk.
  • Do choose hugs wisely.

To read Tara’s complete article, please click here.

Can you picture yourself hugging this way?

  • Wearing a mask and hugging in opposite directions.
  • Not allowing your cheek to touch the other person’s cheek while facing the same direction.
  • Making a child hug you around the knees or waist. At the same time looking away from them and not breathing on them.
  • Not breathing during any hugs. (Heck, people might pass out from lack of oxygen if it’s a long hug.)
  • Not talking to the other person. (That would be pretty difficult if you’re consoling a dear friend after the loss of a loved one.)
  • Choosing your hugs wisely. (Can you picture yourself telling someone it’s not wise for you to hug them now and then hugging someone else standing right beside them?)

If these become the new rules, I just am going to stop hugging altogether.

Michelle R Davis has a simpler list in her article,” Will We Ever Hug Again?,” which is on AARP’s website. At the end of that article, she has listed New Rules for Hugging. Here is an abbreviated version.

  • Hugs should be fully consensual.
  • Generally, you can hug the people you’re quarantined with.
  • Convey affection in different ways.

To read Michelle’s complete article, please click here.

The problem with Michelle’s suggestions is you would only be hugging those living with you. You would have to find other ways to express affection for any other people. That would include your family members and friends who live elsewhere.

Overreacting and Taking This to the Extreme

I believe both Tara Parker-Pope and Michelle R Davis have overreacted and are taking this to the extreme. At some time in the future, Covid-19 will no longer be a threat. It will be safe again to shake and hold hands, give high fives and hug.

Even right now, we older people are being extra cautious. We have seen and heard how bad it can be for a person our age or older who gets Covid-19. We have heard of the painful deaths people have had and the extended period of time it takes for many people to recover from it.

We want to avoid getting this virus and are extra cautious. As a group, we older people wear masks and practice social distancing more than those in other age groups.

We are more likely to ask our family members and friends if they have any symptoms of Covid-19. If they do, we are going to stay away from them.   Most of our family members and friends won’t have symptoms and we will probably hug them. Likewise, you will probably see us holding their hands.

It may be quite a while before we start shaking hands with others. When we do, we will probably make sure to wash our hands shortly afterwards.

As long as we are cautious, we should be safe.


If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is bob.ooablog@gmail.com.