Coronavirus in Italy: the ‘miraculous’ Hall of Hugs to embrace grandparents again

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In a residence in Veneto, they came up with a brilliant idea that restores the pleasure of touch that the virus stole to encounters.

In this long-awaited and terrible Christmas due to the pandemic, which Italians want to save at all costs, especially by not abandoning their dear nonos in a safe but sad loneliness, there will be 270 happy elderly people who will celebrate with their united family, whom will embrace and with whom I know will kiss and again. Also between them, isolated from each other since March For security measures, there will be kisses and hugs in bulk, hands that are held and caressed.

It is not a miracle but a cool idea: the Hall of Hugs, which has been operating for a few days in the small town of Castelfranco Veneto, in northern Italy, where the rest home called Domenico Sartor is located. It is part of a public chain of residences that exists throughout Italy, the “RSA” and is part of the advanced Italian social security system.

“There the device has been invented that closes the door to the virus but not to affection”, writes triumphantly “La Repubblica”.

Director Elisabetta Barbaro told the press, who convened to present the idea, that the Hall of Hugs “It is unprecedented, We were thinking of doing something inspired by an incubator for premature babies, but we had to invent everything.

“We asked for help from the fantasy of manufacturers, technicians, craftsmen, prototypes were designed, materials were studied,” says Barbaro.

The project initially had a name that sums up the idea: “Emotion of hugs.”

In a large hall that was unused they were built twelve seats with headphones and soft plastic hands that pass through a glass separator continuously sanitized with catalytic lamps and ozone.

There is also a room where you can go to hugs, kisses and more caresses. A transparent plastic veil ensures the impossibility of contamination. It is subtle and with emotion its presence is hardly felt. The journalist Michele Smargiassi baptizes him “The prophylactic of feeling”. One of the elderly in the nursing home smiles and comments: “They have uncovered the pot of emotions.”

The BBC of London, which arrived in Castelfranco Veneto, enthusiastically praises this new test of the unattainable Latin genius for these discoveries of the best of the human soul. The BBC launched the idea of ​​popularizing The Hall of Hugs in Britain as well. The same is happening in Italy, where there are thousands of nursing homes where thousands died in the first wave of the pandemic, neglected or abandoned.

This did not happen in the house in Castelfranco Veneto where the 270 old men were cared for properly against the coronavirus, isolating them from each other and from their own relatives.

The director Elisabetta Barbato said that when the worst of the first wave of the virus passed and summer arrived, “we took advantage of the good weather and organized remote meetings, protected in the garden.”

The goal was to overcome the psychological blow from the feeling of repressive seclusion. “The tone had fallen dangerously low.” Other resources were sought. “Try to recover the lost caresses.”

The relatives showed desperate, reduced to phone calls to parents, grandparents and uncles who at the end of life suffer the inevitable wear and tear of age. Santalmassi writes in “La Repubblica”, with simplicity, a deep thought. “If the virus has a will, it is perfidious. Contact with another person transmits the virus. And the hug, the most beautiful gesture of the human being, has become in a threat”.

The hug is good. It is proven. “Twenty seconds of hugging is therapy. The body reacts, the brain produces endorphins, the blood becomes oxygenated. “

In the hands that clasp, with a son, a grandson, it is life that resurfaces “the transparent but sure veil will have a firm memory and will return to us as a metaphor for what divides us, because the collective consciousness is often wrapped cellophane”.

One of the psychologists who have intervened wrote that “physical contact with family members helps patients to enjoy greater mental and emotional well-being, useful to better cope with the virus.”

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