Mary MacCarthy grew up in a family that loved the arts. She studied psychology in college and worked in a variety of areas, including business and marketing, and with Minnesota Public Radio. She also did some work with medical devices and with senior citizens, studying improvement in quality of life. But after a long career of honing her talents, an opportunity to combine them all together led to her newest venture, started this past spring.
It was MacCarthy’s combined passion for seniors and the arts that inspired her to start Glorious Hugs, a business that sends care packages to seniors who need some love from family and friends who are far away. “I really enjoy and see huge opportunity for improving the emotional well-being of seniors,” she says, learning from her time working with medical devices for this age group.
“I did an ethnography project and went into patients’ homes to talk about diseases, and it struck me deeply how lonely some of these patients were,” she says. “When I talked to doctors, they said the old saying about how loneliness can break your heart is true.” A wide variety of clinical evidence suggests that illness combined with loneliness can exacerbate the illness, MacCarthy says, and she wanted to see that change.
Her interest in the senior community also came from her grandmother Gloria, who lived in an assisted living home before her passing in late 2015. Gloria was heavily involved with starting the business and helping MacCarthy choose pieces for the care packages; not to mention that the business’ name is a nod to Gloria.
MacCarthy hesitated at first to use Gloria for marketing, but Gloria was ecstatic. When she first saw herself on TV, she joked that she was finally a celebrity at the age of 97. “She was kind of tickled about the whole thing,” MacCarthy says.
We were able to interview Gloria in 2015 before she passed away. “I’m so proud of Mary,” Gloria said. “I’m sure she’ll do her best. Everyone asks me about the Glorious Hugs box on my table.”
The senior community often can’t go buy things for themselves, or don’t feel the need. MacCarthy hopes to get the message out that seniors need love and support, and that Glorious Hugs is there to help.
Each package includes an art piece, a poetry selection, a stamped postcard, cookies from a local bakery, coloring pages, a harmonica or kazoo, and other goodies. All the pottery, art, poetry and treats come from local artists, writers and bakeries; the sender picks the art and poetry depending on their loved one’s interests, which was very important to MacCarthy.
Packages can also be sent to college students or anyone else who needs love from far away. MacCarthy also hopes to eventually employ developmentally disabled individuals to increase the number of good jobs for the disabled community.
In addition to being an advocate for often overlooked communities, MacCarthy hopes that these care packages will extend awareness about the dangers of isolation and how special it is for the seniors to receive love in the mail as a reminder that someone is looking out for them.
“When people receive this, I want it to feel like a hug, like someone cares about them deeply,” MacCarthy says of the care packages. “It frequently brings people to tears. I think about how little seniors receive in the mail, and it definitely leaves an impression for a long time.”
Find special Valentine’s Day-themed care package gifts in the month of February at the website here.