VIDEO: ‘Hug tent’ provides safe embraces at U.S. elderly home

Lynda Hartman, 75, visits her 77-year-old husband, Len Hartman, in a “hug tent” set up outside the Juniper Village assisted living center in Louisville, Colo., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)Lynda Hartman, 75, visits her 77-year-old husband, Len Hartman, in a “hug tent” set up outside the Juniper Village assisted living center in Louisville, Colo., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
Gregg MacDonald holds hands with his 84-year-old mother, Chloe MacDonald, at a “hug tent” set up outside the Juniper Village assisted living center in Louisville, Colo., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. The tent includes a construction-grade plastic barrier with built-in plastic sleeves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)Gregg MacDonald holds hands with his 84-year-old mother, Chloe MacDonald, at a “hug tent” set up outside the Juniper Village assisted living center in Louisville, Colo., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. The tent includes a construction-grade plastic barrier with built-in plastic sleeves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

Lynda Hartman needed a hug.

It had been at least eight months since she touched her 77-year-old husband, Len, who has dementia and has been at an assisted living center in suburban Denver for the last year.

On Wednesday, she got a small taste of what life was like before the coronavirus pandemic.

Sort of.

Thanks to a “hug tent” set up outside Juniper Village at Louisville, Hartman got to squeeze her husband of nearly 55 years — albeit while wearing plastic sleeves and separated by 4 mil plastic sheeting, which is 4 thousandths of an inch thick.

“I really needed it. I really needed it,” the 75-year-old said after her brief visit. “It meant a lot to me, and it’s been a long, long time.”

Hartman, who fractured two vertebrae and could no longer take care of her husband by herself, said she thought he was a little confused but that it was important for them to embrace again.

“We’ve been trying to do it for a long time,” she said. “It felt good. I kept hitting his glasses when I hugged him, though. And he got cold.”

Although the setup wasn’t ideal, Hartman said, “At least you can do something, and it’s important.”

Since the pandemic hit, similar tents have popped up around the country and in places like Brazil and England, where some people call them “cuddle curtains.”

The assisted living facility in the Denver suburb of Louisville, which has fully vaccinated its residents and staff, partnered with nonprofit health care organization TRU Community Care to set up the tent with construction-grade plastic on a blustery but warm winter day this week.

“I think it’s just a huge weight off their shoulders, just being able to have that hug that they haven’t had in so long,” said Anna Hostetter, a spokeswoman for Juniper Village at Louisville. “When we were planning this and setting it up, and I saw pictures, I wasn’t sure if with all the plastic and everything you could really get that human contact. But I teared up on some of them. It was really special for our families.”

The hug tent will go up again Tuesday, and staff are planning to keep hosting them.

For Gregg MacDonald, holding hands with his 84-year-old mother, Chloe MacDonald, was important because they hadn’t touched since April. She likes to get updates on her grandson and granddaughter.

“Time is a precious commodity, so while we all wait to get back to more normality, in the meantime, everyone is doing what they can,” Gregg MacDonald said. “So I appreciate any efforts that they are making to allow us to have more contact with everybody.”

Amanda Meier, project coordinator for TRU Community Care, said she, her husband and some volunteers built the hug tent around a standard 8-by-8-foot popup frame and attached the construction-grade plastic with glue and Velcro. Plastic arm sleeves built into the tent are attached with embroidery hoops.

Since the beginning of November, she has helped set up four hug tents in Colorado and said the feedback has been positive.

“Lots of tears, but happy sort of tears, and a lot of shocked expressions of how in the world can we be doing something like this. It’s so weird,” Meier said.

But after the initial weirdness, the benefits are clear, she said.

“You can see sort of relief in their bodies and their faces when they finally get to have that physical contact, which is really a basic human need. And in these facilities, a lot of times they’re missing it anyway because they’re just not with their families,” Meier said. “I don’t think it’s measurable, really. You just know it when you see it and feel it when you’re there.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
COVID-19 exposures on two Kelowna flights

The BCCDC announced two Pacific Coastal Airlines had potential COVID-19 exposures

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says Lumby RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

Longtime Vernon friends Zach Anderson, left, and Justin Mitchell discussed depression on social media. Anderson is in Perth, Australia, where he is partaking in a running event to raise money and awareness of depression in memory of longtime Morning Star editor Glenn Mitchell, Justin’s father. (Photo contributed)
Vernon man laces up for mental health challenge in honour of Glenn Mitchell

Zach Anderson, with blessing of Mitchell’s family, raising awareness of depression Down Under

The Dixie Fried Hep Katz are featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
Okanagan talents shine under Vernon spotlight

12-year-old from Lake Country, Enderby singer-songwriter-guitarist and Kelowna duo in Focus

School bus fees are being charged to all riders in the Vernon School District. (Courtesy photo)
Parents pressure Vernon school board to curb bus fee hike

More than 1,200 signatures on petition against $200 rider fees, to be discussed at board meeting

COVID-19 vaccines were available at a site on East Pender in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Feb. 25. (Twitter/Sarahblyth17)
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents offered $5 after getting COVID-19 vaccine

It’s an effort to ‘incentivize people to engage,’ says B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix

</p>
A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

On June 23, 2020, Sunrise Rotary announced it will be donating $50,000 in support of the Bridge Youth and Family Services for the construction of the “Okanagan Youth Recovery House” project for young people under the age of 19 who are experiencing addiction. (Contributed)
Interior Health adds 10 youth substance-use treatment beds in the Okanagan

The Bridge Youth and Family Services will operate the beds

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. teacher transferred then suspended after students report feeling ‘scared, nervous’

Authorities found that teacher did not create inviting, respectful environment for students

Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries offers cheaper, prepaid fare options

Ferry service preparing for busy terminals when travel restrictions are lifted

The District of Sicamous got behind a UBCM resolution which would keep loggers off managed snowmobile trails in the winter. (File photo)
Sicamous, snowmobile club want to keep loggers off sled trails in the winter

Resolution going to UBCM asking that recreational use be given priority in peak snowmobile season

Most Read