‘Hugging wall’ offers contact to senior residents during pandemic

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(NBC) – Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, going without hugging loved ones has become more common as people work to keep themselves and others safe — especially the elderly. 

The staff at Aspen Creek Senior Living in Anchorage, Alaska has found a safe way to allow families to hug, hold hands and lean on one another after nearly eight months of separation. It’s called a ‘hugging wall.’

Cindy Judd was able to embrace her mother for the first time in about six months thanks to the wall. 

“It’s the power of touch. It’s just a human need that we both really needed,” Judd says. “We can talk, but touching is what really makes that connection, and it’s just special.”

“We’ve had visits outside. We’ve been able to do six feet apart with masks, and we have some outdoor heaters, but we realize that touch is so important to everybody, but especially our elderly. They just crave that,” says Aspen Creek Executive Director, Anna Houser. “If you go up to talk to them, they’re grabbing your hand, they’re reaching out. They want to have contact.”

Families visiting Aspen Creek must wear a mask and gloves while using the hugging wall. It’s also sanitized in between uses so multiple families can share their special moments safely.

“It’s been a wonderful day. I will never forget it…To see my beautiful granddaughter and my beautiful great grandbaby, it’s been just like a miracle,” Aspen Creek resident Bobbie Belmudes said.

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