The 'hug tunnel' lets seniors' home residents safely hug loves ones during the COVID-19 pandemic

·2 min read
(Courtesy of Três Figueiras)
(Courtesy of Três Figueiras)

The global pandemic has been rough to varying degrees for pretty much everyone, but elderly people — those who have been most strongly advised to stringently follow social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders — have had it especially hard.

Prolonged isolation from family and friends and a lack of hands-on affection can really take its toll, but a long-term care home in Brazil has carved out a solution that keeps seniors safe from viral infections while allowing them to hug the people they love.

After a group of seniors residing at the Três Figueiras home in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil saw Mother’s Day come and go without any visitors due to virus lockdown rules, the home’s staff couldn’t help but feel the morale plummet.

“We noticed that our senior residents were feeling sad,” Luciana Brito, one of the owners of the facility, told CNN. “We thought they would be much happier if we found a way for them to hug their relatives.”

And that’s when the “hug tunnel” was conceived.

A son hugs his father at the Geriatric Clinic Três Figueiras on June 16, 2020 in Gravatai, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)
(Photos by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)

Consisting of arm holes — set at three different heights so children and those in wheelchairs can reap its benefits — for both residents and visitors, and made of thick, clear plastic sheeting, the invention allows hugging and intimate contact with practically none of the dangers.

Brito told CNN that the idea for the "hug tunnel" as we know it today was derived from a viral video in which a U.S. woman created a plastic curtain so she could hug her mother.

The staff at Três Figueiras also disinfect the sheets in between visits, while guests must sanitize and have their temperatures checked beforehand to ensure safety for all.

The measures to minimize risk combined with the functionality of the contraption itself has yielded something the facility's administrator, Rubia Santos, says should be strongly considered by anyone at the forefront of senior and geriatric care.

“If anyone out there runs a senior living home or facility, I recommend you do this,” Santos said.

“It is so gratifying to see them hugging each other and so important.”

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