Apparently operating under the theory that human contact in any form is better than no human contact at all, a nursing home in Italy has set up a "hug room" where its residents can hug their families over the holidays, according to The Hill.
Your mileage may vary, however, as to how much this "hug room" will be of help to the home's residents because it will require residents to be separated from their hugees by a sheet of plexiglass, and to insert their arms into protective sleeves that have been attached to holes in the plexiglass. In other words, no actual human-to-human contact will occur.
The home, which is known as the Ville Del Sol facility outside of Rome, had their first trial with the "hug room" between 21-year-old Gioia Tocchio and her 82-year-old grandmother Giovanna Chinagli, and deemed it a success, paving the way for more of their residents to enjoy a "hug" with their relatives.
Ville Del Sol owner Paola Del Bufalo told the Washington Post, "The fact of holding the hand of a loved one means so much. It's not as if they hadn't seen one other at a distance. But it's one thing to see, another to touch."
Nursing home residents have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. While nursing home residents represent only about one quarter of 1 percent of the United States population, they have represented about 40 percent of the nationwide fatalities that have been attributed to COVID-19.
In addition to the deaths directly attributable to the disease, an as-yet-undetermined number of nursing home residents have suffered premature deaths due to what many have called a mental health crisis that is affection the nation's nursing home residents, who have suddenly found themselves cut off from direct contact with their families and loved ones.
As the AARP notes, nursing home staff have widely reported the phenomenon of their residents "losing the will to live" as a result of isolation brought on by the pandemic.
Nursing home residents are expected to receive higher priority in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, which will hopefully allow residents to resume regular, actual hugs with their family and friends, without the use of plexiglass or protective sleeves.