Mary Rose, a massage therapist based in Colorado, has written a book on massage for elderly and medically fragile patients called Comfort Touch: Massage for the Elderly and the Ill. The technique uses gentle, but firm pressure–what Rose calls “the feeling of a hug”–and avoids rubbing, which can tear the thin skin of an older person.

Comfort Touch does not require lotion, a special massage table or a set amount of time. The idea is not to cure something that’s wrong, but rather to offer a deeply felt comfort.

“When someone is to that point in hospice care, you’re really touching their whole life,” Rose says. “It’s all there in the nervous system. All of who they are is there.”

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–Camera &, Boulder, Colorado, April 28