Why mo­bile bar­ber Lenny’s a cut above for de­men­tia pa­tients

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY VIC­TO­RIA LEONARD

NORTH­ERN Ire­land’s first de­men­tia-friendly bar­ber’s ser­vice has launched.

The novel con­cept recre­ates the au­then­tic bar­ber’s shop ex­pe­ri­ence for nurs­ing home res­i­dents.

The pop-up bar­ber shop — fea­tur­ing a swirling bar­ber’s pole, juke­box and tra­di­tional wet shaves — helps male pen­sion­ers with the con­di­tion re­live their youth in a safe and friendly en­vi­ron­ment.

Be­fore launch­ing the busi­ness, Ban­gor man Lenny White (36) un­der­took an Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety course in how to be­come de­men­tia-friendly so that he could un­der­stand his cus­tomers’ needs.

“The el­derly re­ally re­spond well to the ex­pe­ri­ence on an emo­tional level,” said Lenny

(inset) . “I play old songs by Frank Si­na­tra and Dean Martin on the juke­box, which helps them re­live their mem­o­ries of com­ing into the bar­ber’s shops of their youth. Some of them say the songs re­mind them of their mum, and some­times there are a few tears.

“They get sprayed with old-fash­ioned lemon Cologne, they get a proper wet shave, and I have the light-up bar­ber’s pole sit­ting out too, so it’s a com­plete sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The rel­a­tives can’t be­lieve that they sit still for me, as some- times peo­ple with de­men­tia get ag­i­tated, but the men seem to love get­ting into that male-only en­vi­ron­ment. They en­joy the craic, it’s a spe­cial pam­per­ing day for the males and they feel re­laxed and safe.

“I also bring in a fid­get board with a fid­get spin­ner, light switches, a bike bell, locks and keys for them to pass around as they wait. It’s lovely, re­ally heart­warm­ing. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’ t have a great big smile from the heart.”

Lenny trav­els around North­ern Ire­land and says that his vis­its to some nurs­ing homes have in­spired a change in the fa­cil­i­ties pro­vided for res­i­dents.

“Care homes would tra­di­tion­ally have brought in fe­male hair­dressers, but since I started bring­ing in the bar­ber shop ex­pe­ri­ence some have in­tro­duced bar­ber shop signs and be­come more uni­sex,” he ex­plained.

“I be­lieve that there is still a stigma to de­men­tia, but there doesn’t need to be. Peo­ple need to feel safe so they can talk about it. De­men­tia isn’t the end of the road, it’s just a dif­fer­ent road.

“I think it would be good for more busi­nesses to do the course to be­come de­men­tia-friendly, es­pe­cially with the con­di­tion be­com­ing more and more preva­lent in our so­ci­ety.”

Visit ‘Lenny the de­men­tia friendly bar­ber’ on Face­book

JONATHAN PORTER

Lenny White cuts 70-year-old Drew’s hair

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