Hairstylists could help elderly clients seek services

By Tom Nordlie • Published: January 15th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For some people, a visit to the hairstylist is almost like a therapy session.

Sitting in a chair with little to do but talk, they can open up and discuss their troubles.

Which raises an interesting point… hairstylists may be able to identify clients who need social-support services.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology explored this idea, as it applies to senior citizens.

Researchers mailed surveys to two-hundred hair salons in the Columbus, Ohio area. Forty stylists from thirty-one salons responded.

The survey asked about the stylists, their clients, and interactions between them.

The results showed that the average stylist was a middle-aged white woman who’d been in the business twenty-five years.

About one-third of her clients were age sixty or over.

Most stylists reported having close relationships with customers.

More than ninety percent were privy to their older customers’ physical health problems. Many also heard about issues with family, finances, anxiety and depression.

Most stylists tried to help.

But three-quarters reported they had little or no knowledge of community resources that could provide assistance.

The good news? Almost half the respondents were interested in mental-health training, which could make them more effective in recognizing problems and giving appropriate referrals.

The study may not have provided a complete picture, because participation was low. The researchers said more information about stylists representing ethnic minorities was needed.

But one thing seems clear.

By combining a sympathetic ear and a little knowledge, hairstylists could be in a position to not only help older clients look better, but perhaps feel better as well.