Victorian aged care provider Lifeview has installed hugging stations at its aged care facilities to allow residents to physically connect with their loved ones during visits.
The initiative aims to reduce feelings of loneliness residents, and their family members may be experiencing because of COVID-19.
The hugging stations, which are made of durable plastic, have been rolled out to all four of Lifeview’s residential aged care homes.
Lifeview social support manager Annitta Macauley said the idea for the hugging stations came from residents.
“Our homes are very tactile and one of the things residents expressed to us was they were missing physical contact.
“We too were missing being able to give them a hug, it is a simple gesture but means so much,” Ms Macauley told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“This made us think there must be some COVID-safe way we can still hug. We know there are solutions out there to many problems and you just have to think outside the square,” Ms Macauley said.
The stations are not overly technical and are easy to clean, she said.
“The hugging stations are set up in each of our four homes and are used daily by residents and their loved ones,” she said.
Ms Macauley said hugging has a multitude of benefits.
“Good, long hugs are good for your heart. During a hug, we release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us and lowers anxiety,” she said.
“When it’s released during a 20-second hug we instantly start to feel better, relaxed and most of all loved,” Ms Macauley said.
She said staff, residents and family members were happy with the hugging stations.
“The looks of joy on the faces of residents and their loved ones post hug tells us this small innovation is a winner,” she said.
“The sheer joy this brings those involved can bring a tear to your eye.”
Lifeview also has rolled out video calls and window visits to help residents remain connected with their loved ones.