Juarez & Heloisa’s Story

The Touch of Love

It was love at first sight when 19-year-old Juarez saw 22-year-old Heloisa in the main street of São João del Rey, Brazil. The couple have been happily together for more than 54 years. What is their secret? And what happens if we grow old without a long-lasting relationship?

"I call him Love. And now everyone else calls him Love, too"

Heloisa

Touch as a sign of love

The couple have five children, 18 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. The world has changed a lot in the past 50 years. But for Juarez and Heloisa one thing has always remained the same: “We have always liked to cuddle, to touch each other. I don't even call Juarez by his name. I call him Amor; my Love. And now everyone else calls him Love, too.” For the couple, touching, hugging, and cuddling are signs of love and comfort. Although both didn’t grow up with a lot of physical affection around them. Their own parents for example never held hands.

"Physical interaction is no trivial matter. Which is why we should all pay more attention to it"

Prof. Dr. Martin Grunwald

Experimental Psychologist

Touch as a Lifesaver

Why is touch so important for relationships? One possible answer: It expresses kindness. Research has shown that kindness is the most important predictor for a stable, happy marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated – in short, feel loved. Physical affection requires attention and creates emotional connection. Quite the opposite of neglect which creates distance between partners and can also lead to growing resentment in the partner that feels ignored.

 

The Key importance of Touch

A long-lasting relationship also supports good health. And again, human touch plays a key role: it reduces high blood pressure, anxiety, can help heart rhythm disorders, symptoms of depression, and pain.

Touch as a Painkiller

US-Study about the analgesic effects of social touch, 2016. 

Subjects were asked to report pain intensity using a numerical pain score (NPS), ranging from 0, denoting ‘no pain’, to 100, denoting ‘the worst pain imaginable’. The results revealed diminished levels of pain during partners' touch compared with all other control conditions.

Being out of touch

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly rare to grow old happily together like Heloisa and Juarez. People between 50-69 are more likely than any other age group to live alone or in smaller households. There are multiple reasons for this: the rise of the “nuclear family” trend in recent decades, the decline in marriage rates, and a higher life expectancy throughout the world. In our NIVEA study we found that, across the board, people aged 50-69 reported fewer experiences with physical touch in their daily lives compared to other age groups. This included fewer hugs, fewer brief strokes on the arm while talking, or fewer opportunities to cuddle. Touch deprivation has been proven to lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and decreased immunity. Given their increased risk for loneliness as well as age-related health problems, elderly people need more touch, not less.

 

"Feelings of loneliness create high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Loneliness, then, can change the whole epigenetic pattern of people."

Richard M. Lerner

Professor of Human Development

50+ and Touch-Deprived?

Our worldwide survey found that people aged 50-69 face unique challenges when it comes to touch.

says that physical touch is not a daily occurance in their life

miss touch very much and want to make up for it after the crisis

realized during isolation how important physical touch is for their health

feel lonely when lacking human touch

say that the isolation has made them feel lonelier than ever before

say that lack of human touch makes them feel lonely even if they have many contacts on social networks