Today we are sharing another special story from an inspirational person, who is helping to bring a bit of joy to the lives of elderly gentlemen living in Four Seasons Health Care homes across Northern Ireland.
Lenny White has pioneered mobile barbering for men living with dementia, and is bringing the barber shop experience to care homes, hospitals and day centres across Northern Ireland.
Lenny started working in a care home from an early age, and after a brief time away, he returned to work in the kitchens.
“I always had a heart for the elderly; I used to work in nursing homes… I used to work in the kitchens, and I used to always enjoy going out and serving the meals to the elderly and having good interactions with the residents.”
Whilst working in a care home, Lenny realised that while there was pampering facilities for women, there wasn’t much for men. He trained as a professional barber in 2016. After completing his barbering diploma Lenny became ‘the mobile barber’. In the heart warming video below, Lenny explains how he was inspired to bringing old-time barbering back:
As Lenny was working with people with dementia he was approached by the Alzheimer’s society to complete a dementia course. Lenny describes his experiences: “It was really interesting; it was looking at it from their point of view, how they would see things… and how it affects families and the people themselves.”
Using his experience from working with people with dementia, and his knowledge from completing his course, Lenny replicates the barber shop experience, focusing on the small details which can be taken for granted. These details can help bring back memories for men living with dementia, like a jukebox stocked with old-time favourite tunes, traditional soap-and-brush shaves, hot towels, and popular colognes. He also sets up shop with antique pictures and signs and even a vintage rotating barber pole.
Lenny explains the motivation behind the mobile barber shop: “Men enjoy going to the barber shop, they enjoy a bit of craic with their mates and that’s what I’m trying to create…
“It’s not even really a job; it’s just amazing to go in and just to play music, to see these men not only looking better, (but) feeling better.
“Just to see the smiles on their face, even the wee small things like a wee tap of the feet when the music’s on, they get to reminisce, memories from times gone by… it’s lovely to see and lovely to watch.
“The atmosphere seems to create, a sense of peace within them and when they come in… you can see by their face that they’ve really enjoyed it… and it’s just amazing to watch… it’s just amazing to see that.”
Lenny was recently honoured for his ‘Outstanding Contribution’ at the Northern Ireland Dementia Friendly Awards. The Awards recognise people, organisations, companies, and towns leading the way in taking action to ensure that people living with dementia are included in their community.
Bernadine McCrory, Country Director (Northern Ireland) for Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Lenny’s innovative dementia friendly barbering stood out as an outstanding contribution to improving the lives of men with dementia. The level of nominations received this year was truly phenomenal and there were some exceptional stories heard at the awards ceremony. All the finalists and winners at the Dementia Friendly Awards have demonstrated how we can unite against dementia and support those affected by the condition.”
On receiving his award Lenny commented: "I'm overwhelmed to get this award. This award is for all the men who I provide this service to everyday. It’s a pleasure to provide the [dementia friendly] barber service and make their lives happier.”
Lenny’s experiences highlight how rewarding working with people with dementia can be, and how by concentrating on the little details we can create wonderful experiences. We look forward to welcoming Lenny back into our care homes soon.