Belfast Telegraph

Mobile barber Lenny's a cut above for dementia patients

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 sometimes 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

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