AUSTIN, Texas — Plenty of people can find themselves lonely, especially in February, but it can be especially prevalent among seniors. An AARP-University of Michigan study found that social isolation is widespread in people ages 50 to 80. Local caregivers from the organization Visiting Angels are making sure our aging neighbors are not forgotten. 

Visiting Angels provides temporary and long-term elder care services to seniors to help them live at home, in hopes of giving families peace of mind. 

“The progression of aging is unavoidable, and with that, daily tasks become a little more demanding on us, getting to the grocery store, getting to doctor's appointments, meal prepping, keeping up with household chores. We send an angel out to provide those services for the seniors throughout the Austin community, because they want to be at home, they want to age in place,” Delores Linton, care coordinator at Visiting Angels, said. 

The organization sends “designated huggers” to surprise seniors at their homes and give them a simple hug during the week of Valentine’s Day. Caregivers point to studies that show how hugs can be good for people’s physical health. Researchers with Carnegie Mellon University found that hugs can lighten moods on days when someone is experiencing interpersonal conflict. Another study from the university found that those who felt socially supported and hugged experienced less severe illness signs.

“It’s just part of human nature. Anytime you get a hug, you just instantly, instantly feel better,” Linton said. 

Spectrum News was there when Linton surprised 83-year-old Pamela Barrett with balloons. Barrett has been living by herself since her husband died more than a decade ago. 

“It means everything it's nice. It's really nice,” Barrett said. ​