June 2, 2020 / 3:20 PM / a month ago

In Brazil, the elderly and loved ones reunite, with a little ingenuity

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Dirce Villas Boas, a 93-year-old resident of a nursing home in western Sao Paulo, had gone 70 days without seeing her daughter until this weekend, when the pair hugged and danced together in an emotional reunion.

The new coronavirus pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Sao Paulo, the site of the worst outbreak in Brazil, where nearly 30,000 people have lost their lives to the virus.

But thanks to the ingenuity of local businessman Bruno Zani, Villas Boas and her daughter Dircyree were able to embrace again. The two were separated by a translucent plastic curtain outfitted with holes for Dircyree’s arms, which were also wrapped in protective equipment.

The pair did not seem to mind.

“When you think about the feeling of a mother hugging her daughter, the heart beats, it really beats,” said Dirce.

Zani, who produced the curtain, makes a living in the party-decoration business, which has all but ceased in the pandemic. He typically donates flowers from the parties to nursing homes, where he noticed residents now have few chances to see family.

After talking with psychologists, therapists and other specialists, Zani tried a pilot program with the plastic curtain at one nursing home, and he plans to offer them in nursing homes throughout the city.

“The starting point was the heart itself,” Zani said, “seeing that difficulty of a family member and a confined (loved one) not being able to meet.”

Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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