"Hug room" lets Italian nursing home residents touch family for the first time in months

To stay safe, the home’s residents had given up the physical therapy sessions, the visits, the Sundays when relatives might take them out for a walk or a gelato. Four-person dining tables had long ago been pared down to two.

The plexiglass, at last, was a way for the residents to be more social. Facilities from Barcelona to Florida had been deploying comparable devices, sometimes with a looser plastic sheeting. In the days before the holidays, Villa del Sole started filling out a schedule for the hug room, calling up relatives and arranging times when they would show up.

“The fact of holding the hand of a loved one means so much,” Del Bufalo said. “It’s not as if they hadn’t seen one other at a distance. But it’s one thing to see, another to touch.”