The use of touch is an inherent part of nursing practice This investigation examined the amount and type of touch received by elderly patients from nurses It also attempted to assess elderly patients’ perceptions of instrumental and expressive touch given by nurses The Extended Model of Interpersonal Interaction formed the conceptual framework for the study Non-participant observation and semi-structured interviews were the methods employed for data collection Results tentatively suggest that most nurse-patient touch interactions in a care of the elderly ward are instrumental in nature Expressive touches are predominantly given to body extremities The gender of the nurse initiating touch and the part of the body touched influence the elderly patients’ perception of the touch interaction In particular, expressive touching behaviours by nurses that involve the leg, face and around the shoulders are perceived as uncomfortable The only touching behaviour perceived as comfortable by all respondents was instrumental touching of the arm and shoulder by a female nurse Elderly patients may misinterpret the goal or the motivation behind touch initiation by a nurse Therefore, an awareness and a sensitivity towards elderly patients’ needs and desires for tactile communication are required by nurses