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

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Nanaimo-raised singer records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

The Gabriola Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express fleet will be able to move to a new depot facility after receiving more than $187,000 of community economic recovery infrastructure program money from the Province of B.C. (Submitted photo)
Gabriola bus system receives $188,000 from province for depot building

Old fire hall to be retrofitted and serve as new bus terminal thanks to COVID-19 recovery funding

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

Submissions are open for Vancouver Island Regional Library’s new online arts and literature magazine, ‘Sea and Cedar.’ (Bulletin file photo)
Submissions sought for library’s new digital arts and literature publication

‘Sea and Cedar’ magazine an initiative of Nanaimo Harbourfront Library

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin photo)
Bear seen at Park Avenue Elementary School field in Nanaimo

Students being advised to walk in groups and avoid the bushes

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Nanaimo’s Joanne Secord is a quarterfinalist in Inked Magazine’s Cover Model Search contest. (Janayh Wright Photography)
50-year-old Nanaimo mom hopes her tattoos will earn her a magazine cover shoot

Joanne Secord on cusp of semifinals in Inked Magazine contest

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)
Motorist sentenced to two years for dangerous driving causing death on Gabriola Island

William Goosman pleaded guilty last fall in connection with incident that killed Jay Dearman

Most Read