Senior community builds hug station to safely bring joy back to residents

Something as simple as a hug -- another thing lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two months into social distancing, the effects are taking a toll on the residents of a senior living community in Rochester Hills.

“There was a little bit of I’m not going to say anger, but frustration. But more so, there’s some sadness. People are just sad. Just like everybody else, they just wanted to be normal again," said Christi Smarch.

Christi is the regional director of wellness for American House. After seeing the idea on Facebook, the organization wanted to try out a Safe Hug Station to bring that simple joy back to its residents.

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The frame is made out of wood and there is a clear plastic “wall” between the hugging parties that is changed between every use. Each resident and each staff member have on a mask, they have on gloves, and they’ve been given the instruction to not look straight into the plastic because you don’t want your face touching plastic, so everybody turns their head.

"The ability to be able to put your hands in the sleeves and wrap them around somebody was the primary goal," Christi said.

Residents sign a consent form and the station is taken directly to their door. It’s also monitored by another person to make sure it’s as safe as possible.

“The residents initially thought it was kind of silly but now they’re having a lot of fun with it," she said.

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It just goes to show something a simple as a hug can go a long way.

Hugging station at Rochester Hills senior living community, American House

“Human touch, regardless of how it is, has just been a foundation for most human beings their entire life," Christi said.

And for anyone else who may be struggling with some of the things lost during the pandemic, she says: "Just hang in there. It's going to get better. We'll get it fixed. We're going to have a new balance. But right now just do what's being asked, because it's being asked from a place of love."

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