Safe 'hugging booths' allow the elderly to connect with family during coronavirus pandemic

(Amber Crenshaw)

Some Texans are trying to relieve the loneliness and isolation that many elderly Americans are feeling during the coronavirus pandemic by creating safe “hugging booths.”

Amber Crenshaw and her husband Steve Crenshaw own a business called Handle With Care and work with Unlimited Care Cottages, an assisted living facility. Amber said she and her husband designed and built the hugging booths after one of the nurses suggested the idea.

“The residents have been, just so filled with joy,” Amber said. “It was one of our resident’s birthdays. We were able to set the booth up for their birthday, and family members were able to come in and give birthday hugs. It has really lifted the spirits of the assisted living residents.”

Buck Buckholtz, the owner of Unlimited Care Cottages, where the hugging booths have been used, said that the families were also excited.

He said, "The families, there was a pretty quick response of, 'When can you bring it to this house? When can you bring it to this house? When are we going to have one?"

Amber said that she and her husband designed it to fit into a standard door without gaps, and built it with materials that coronavirus cannot transmit through, allowing family members to hug each other safely.

"Just the power of touch is so important because it’s been since March since these family members and the residents at the homes have been able to touch and hug," she said. "Through this, we’ve been able to create an opportunity for them to reach out and have a touch. It’s huge, it brings lots of joy."

The Crenshaws have just worked with Unlimited Care so far, but they said other assisted living facilities in Texas have contacted them with interest.

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