This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here, is:  Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website:

CHITCHAT:  I will be giving free public lectures titled: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Senior Years” on the following dates, times, and locations (RSVP REQUIRED):

March 15, 2018, 10:30am, The Samarkand Retirement Community, 2550 Treasure Dr., Santa Barbara, CA 93105, (877) 412-6305,

April 13, 2018, 1:00pm, Covenant Village of Turlock Retirement Community, 2125 N. Olive Ave, Turlock, CA 95382, (209)-226-4621,

Now, on to my blog:

Man hugging elephantsWe all need a hug. It is tactile contact with another human being; a warm, intimate gesture; and comforting. It can be a balm when we are feeling low; an expression of closeness; a display of  acceptance, or a greeting like a handshake on steroids. However, we must be careful when, where, and to whom we deliver hugs.

The subject of inappropriate touching has been in the news a lot lately. Many have experienced this during their lifetime, both women and men. It may have been as the hug giver, the hug receiver, or both.

I’ve had such experiences including some incidents years ago at my job which would today be considered sexual harassment. These acts are usually carried out by the perpetrator when no one else is around, so if reported by the victim, it becomes an uncorroborated”he said-she said” scenario.

From my youth until well into my adulthood, I was not a huggy type of person. Although I’m still not exceptionally huggy, as I’ve matured and been subjected to life, I’m more prone to offering a hug to relatives and good friends upon meeting or departing, or to someone who has been especially nice and giving in a situation.

I can think of three things that changed my hugging persuasion:

1.  When I had children, they needed hugs, and I found that I loved embracing them.
2.  I have some close friends who are very huggy, and I’ve grown to be comfortable with it.
3.  When I became an actress as a senior, I discovered that the acting community as a whole is a pretty huggy/touchy bunch out of camaraderie.

Sometimes my hug has been well received and other times it has seemed to make the recipient uncomfortable. I think the response comes from how the hugee was raised, where they were raised (different parts of the country or world are not as huggy as others), his/her culture, etc.

I have had a few strange experiences when I’ve initiated a hug. I made the mistake of hugging a man out of friendship. He then expected us to hug every time we saw each other. He finally made it clear that he wanted our relationship to ramp up to the next level, which was not what I wanted, so I broke off the whole thing. It probably would have remained on the friendship footing I had preferred had I not initiated the initial hug out of good feelings.

Once, I invited a group of friends over for lunch. One I knew well, and the other two, a husband and wife, were his friends whom I had only met a few times. We had a lovely time, and when they were ready to depart, I gave each a hug. The husband and wife both seemed very uncomfortable with the gesture, and I was sorry I had done it.

I remember another uneasy situation. A program director had hired me to give a talk to a large group. Although our interaction prior to the event was purely a business relationship, she had been exceptionally nice and helpful to me. After the talk, we were chatting, and I thanked her. Out of excitement at how well things had gone, I moved forward to hug her whereupon she jerked back with an alarmed look on her face. I immediately backed off, but it felt very awkward.

Hugging or other types of touching can be interpreted incorrectly. If one gets a different idea from your initiation of a hug or other simple touch than you had intended, it is very hard to convey to that person that you were simply expressing your warm feelings in an embracing manner. Conversely, when people make themselves vulnerable by expressing affection for another whether physically or verbally, it is hurtful to them to learn that their overtures are unwanted. You take the chance of alienating that person and the discomfort whenever you encounter them again.

Don’t stop hugging or enjoying hugs. Just learn to be prudent when engaging in them.

To get you into a hugging mood, check out the online video, “Free Hugs,” which follows a man as he offers just that, free hugs, to passersby in public. Also, read the moving poem, “The Hug,” by Tess Gallagher.


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Photo credit: cheetah100 via VisualHunt /  CC BY


Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, seniors, successful aging, wellness

8 responses to “Hugs

  1. patricia Spiegel

    Loved it. You are wise.

  2. great advice. in the case of the guy who wanted to ramp things up, he probably would’ve just more quietly & quickly faded away if you hadn’t hugged him LOL

  3. Sheila Sauber

    Hmmm…still thinking about this one. Did like video. Hot topic now. Hope all is well. My actor boarder was in an improv show on Sat. I could never do that, but he did fine For only 2 weeks of class. He is going into a harder class now. Did find a $49 lamp at Lamps Plus. It Works…got rid of old living room lamp!

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Alan Levine

    Sending you a long distance Hug

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