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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 17  |  February 26, 2021

SmileMakers Stations connect hearts and hands at long-term care facilities

With the implementation of SmileMakers Stations, The Council on Aging Southern California (COASC) found a way to reconnect seniors in long-term care with their loved ones. 

COASC President and CEO Lisa Wright Jenkins says, “As you know, seniors in long-term care were isolated before the pandemic and now they are more isolated than ever. To address this, we are building SmileMakers Stations that enable nursing home residents to meet with their loved ones outside and hold hands…something that’s been almost impossible since the pandemic began. We were inspired by this video of James Shelton, a gentleman in Florida, who was desperate to see his wife in a care facility.”

SmileMakers stations red shirt

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Submitted photo

Visitor and senior reconnect after long-term isolation

Some residents have gone for more than 250 days without hugging their family and friends. They have missed the warmth and comfort of human touch for far too long. So, COASC created the next best thing to a “real” hug. The SmileMakers Station allows family members to feel the warmth and joy of holding hands and embracing, often for the first time since the pandemic began. 

After seeing this video (click here to view), they decided they wanted to do something similar here. So, their Long-term Care Ombudsmen identified a nursing home in OC and another in Riverside County that were interested in receiving a donated SmileMakers Station from the Council on Aging. 

“It’s incredibly heartwarming for everyone involved,” says Lisa. “Best of all, it can be used regularly for visits, connecting hearts and hands.”

SmileMakers stations wheelchair

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Submitted photo

Able to hug again thanks to SmileMakers Station

Fred Randall picked up the cost, and they worked with a local manufacturer to create the stations, using plans from the gentleman in the video. The manufacturer augmented the design with a few improvements. 

On Wednesday, Feb 10, a SmileMakers Station was delivered to La Palma Nursing Center in Anaheim and last Friday, one was delivered to Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside.

COASC Director of Development and Community Outreach Jamie Cansler says, “The facilities were so excited to see people’s reactions. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It’s actually possible for the senior and visitor to feel the warmth through the gloves.” 

The stations were designed so that the gaskets in the sheeting are magnetized and fresh gloves can be put on for each encounter.

Best of all, COASC will put another 25 SmileMakers Stations into production using contributions from caring community members. They will be donated to facilities in mid-to-late February. 

 For more information about the Council on Aging, go to


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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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