Humans need touch — which is one of the reasons why the COVID-19 pandemic has been so destructive. With the threat of sickness and death, loved ones who aren’t quarantined together are missing simple things like the mental health boost a good hug can give. So a care home for the elderly in southern Brazil came up with a creative way to allow its residents and their family members to embrace: a “hug tunnel.”
The staff at the Três Figueiras facility in the state of Rio Grande do Sul “noticed that the senior residents were feeling sad,” said Luciana Brito, one of the facility’s owners. “We thought they would be much happier if we found a way for them to hug their relatives.”
Brito says that the idea for the “hug tunnel” came from a video from the United States, where a woman created a plastic curtain in order to hug her mother. The tunnel is basically a a large plastic sheet with four plastic arms, and it is attached to one of the facility’s entrances. This allows for visitors to hug their loved ones without touching them directly.
Eraldo Quintana, one of the 28 residents of Três Figueiras, said he loves the hug tunnel.
“My two daughters came to visit me, and I was very happy to see them,” Quintana told CNN. “If we didn’t have this we would be scared to embrace due to the coronavirus.”
Coronavirus has so far claimed more than 46,500 lives in Brazil. The counntry has the second highest number of deaths and confirmed cases in the world after the United States.
In order to protect residents, the facility cleans the tunnel every 30 minutes, and visits are scheduled ahead of time. According to facility administrator Rubia Santos, all visitors have their temperatures checked and apply hand sanitizer before using the tunnel.
“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.”