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BBC True North – The Dementia Friendly Barber (2019)

BBC True North 2019 The Dementia Friendly Barber

Bangor barber Lenny White shaves and cuts the hair of men with dementia. But his work is about much more than mere appearances: “My barbering is 10% of what I do.” Specialist training allows Lenny’s work to be a form of therapy as he guides his clients back to memories of youth through traditional barbering, including liberal amounts of Brut and Old Spice as well as with music from the past.

The documentary shows Lenny meeting a wide range of people living with different forms of the disease: from Alzheimer’s – the most common – through to the much rarer early-onset dementia. Yet what shines through is that, despite the changes dementia brings to an individual, their personality and their spirit can remain intact. One of Lenny’s clients is Jimmy, a man who doesn’t go anywhere without a special therapy doll. While it is strange to see an elderly man with a doll, it allows him to channel his need to care for others.

Lenny also meets Dr Emma Cunningham from Queen’s University Belfast and explores whether or not our genes play a part in developing dementia in later life. He also takes one of the off-the-shelf genetic tests which claim to offer consumers an insight into their own future.

Lenny is a trailblazer bringing innovative ideas to the field of dementia care – and not just here in Northern Ireland. November sees him fly to Canada to share his skills and knowledge, and he is already booked to speak at a conference in Australia next year.

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