The power of touch

Sunday columnist Peter Leith is 90 and describes himself as “half-deaf and half-blind”. But he sees and hears a lot and considers much that many of us overlook – such as the importance of touch.


After about 20 weeks in our mother’s womb we become sentient. Perhaps the thumping of her heart is our first sensory awareness.

From birth we are bombarded with sensory experiences – sight, sound, smell, taste, hot, cold. We are swamped. No wonder babies sleep a lot. Sensory tactile exhaustion! 

At puberty, there comes a whole new set of powerful and confusing sensory experiences.

The whole of our lives is a constant barrage, a veritable bombardment of sensory and tactile experiences.

But in our old age we are, too often, expected to renounce sensory tactile stimuli of any and all kinds.

Couples who have cohabited for decades may be unable to share a bed in some aged care facilities.

Only the more advanced, aged care facilities recognise the value of companion animals.

Have you watched the expression on the face of an elderly man, sleeping in a chair, with his hand on the rabbit on his lap?  Have you noted the rabbit’s expression too?

Once upon a time, in the ‘activities room’ of a dementia facility, I watched an elderly woman caressing and crooning to the life-sized baby doll she held on her lap.  Her smile was radiant, beatific.

She might have lost her mind but she had not lost touch.

Do you have an idea or observation for Peter? Send it to and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line and we will forward it to him.

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Written by Peter Leith

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