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

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 variant exposure at Mountain Elementary in Abbotsford

Someone with new COVID-19 variant exposed school for 5 consecutive days in late February

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Okanagan high school girls volleyball players Georgia MacLean of Lake Country’s George Elliot Secondary (from left), Olivia Pederson of Vernon Christian School, Kassidy Schaper-Kotter of Vernon Secondary and Makenna Lane from W.L. Seaton Secondary have signed to play college volleyball with Abbotsford’s Columbia Bible College. (File photos)
Fraser Valley college inks quartet of Okanagan recruits

Columbia Bible College Bearcats in Abbotsford sign four players to women’s volleyball squad

Items seized by Chilliwack RCMP and Abbotsford Police during a Feb. 23 traffic stop. (RCMP photo)
Police from Chilliwack and Abbotsford seize drugs in traffic stop

Chilliwack RCMP worked with the Abbotsford PD to seize four kilograms of suspected fentanyl

(Black Press file photo)
Chilliwack RCMP looking for man who tried to grab boy near Robertson elementary school

A man in a parked minivan reached out the driver side window as a young boy passed by

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

(Government of B.C.)
Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

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

Photo: Surrey RCMP
Surrey RCMP arrests two boys, age 16, during dial-a-dope investigation in Whalley

Sergeant Elenore Sturko said one boy is ‘alleged to have been in possession of a loaded handgun at the time of his arrest’

Most Read