As we are all hoping the worst of the Covid-19 Pandemic is history, there are many effects that will be felt not only for years, but perhaps for generations.  In many ways it was an “equal opportunity virus”. Even though many were spared from the actual infection, there are few who were spared from the fear, heartbreaks, and traumas it brought into our lives.

The statistics on how it affected the olders in our communities were staggering.  The number of people who died in nursing homes or congregate settings was devastating.  Although cause of death may have been officially recorded as Covid, I feel that may have only been a contributing factor.  I truly believe that the real cause of death may have been broken hearts from the loneliness and lack of human touch that was imposed by Covid quarantines.

In supporting that hypothesis, a book that I feel is one of the most important in any of the work I have done (and will do!), is LOVE AND SURVIVAL by Dr. Dean Ornish.  That name may be familiar to many because of other work he has done.  Dr. Ornish received his medical training at Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  He was recognized by Life Magazine as one of the 50 most influential members of his generation for his pioneering work demonstrating positive life stye changes (diet, exercise, smoking cessation) could reverse even severe coronary artery disease without drugs or surgery.  At the time, his ideas were considered radical; now they are mainstream.

In 1998, his book, LOVE AND SURVIVAL was published.  Initially it too was considered radical.  Dr. Ornish explored the healing power of love and intimacy and states:

“I am not aware of any other factor in medicine—not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics—that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death from all causes.”

The book is filled with well researched data and anecdotal stories of the healing differences love and caring and touch bring to lives.  We have brains that are wired not only needing love and compassion, but also equally important, to give love and compassion.  The isolation imposed by Covid dramatically effected both sides of this equation.  And as I started out this blog, I truly believe that this separation was a major cause of many of the deaths.

My hypothesis is supported by Dr. Ornish who further states:

“In short, anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering. Anything that promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.”

Mt. Rose Health Center Palliative Care and Hospice is embarking on new programs to explore these very concepts.  The Mindful Aging Project (MAP) is being formulated as a guide and offering opportunities for “olders” to creatively experience the healing properties of connection and community.  Please contact Sandy Dolak at or call/text:  719-251-1271 for more information.

Love & Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy

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