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Beauty shop’s a must for senior living folks

Nothing like a new hairdo to boost spirits at assisted living community

You’re never too old to want to look beautiful. Ask hair salon director Bernice Cunningham; some of her most loyal patrons are centenarians who roll in with wheelchairs or walkers to get their weekly bouffant. In fact, the cosmetology services at The Town Centre Salon at Brooksby Village retirement community are not just about pampering but about wellness and optimism. “Having their hair done can be the highlight of the day for elderly adults living in facilities,” said Cunningham, who is employed through Braintree-based Healthcare Cosmetology Services Inc., which manages salons in senior care centers. Cunningham spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about why the on-site hairdressing shop is one of the busiest places in this Peabody assisted living community.

“Could a haircut ward off fatigue or boost the immune system? I absolutely believe that treating yourself to a cut and curl has health benefits, especially for the disabled or infirm. And of course, active and healthy seniors are redefining outdated concepts of beauty and have more time, energy, and resources for beauty services. All these are reasons why the chairs are always filled at our three full-service salons at Brooksby Village, where over 20 stylists and nail technicians do everything from perms, waxing, coloring, manicures and pedicures. Two of the salons are in the independent living wings and one is located in the nursing home rehabilitation area. Mondays is men’s day, for those who prefer to see a barber. I’m 65 years old myself, so I’ve been working for almost five decades as a hairdresser. I started at department stores – they all used to have hair salons – then an independent shop, and now this. These ladies usually want either roller sets or easy care under the blow dryer. We do lots of reds and blond dyes; one lady said, ‘I have to keep putting color in my hair because my grandson says I look younger.’ Some like a lot of teasing and the old-style Final Net hairspray. A lot of ladies feel like they are going bald, but we have all kinds of tricks up on our sleeve, like a fiber product that fills in spots. The memory issues can be a challenge; we need to have a receptionist because often people forget their appointment or come back in after they were just here yesterday. Those with Alzheimers are afraid of the water and we can’t lay their head back in the sink, so I use a no-rinse shampoo and then towel blot. I had one lady who came in slouched over in her wheel chair, but after we set her hair and combed it out, she said proudly, ‘I’m beautiful again.’ She went out with her head held high. It makes these woman feel like themselves again. When you look good, you feel better. And that’s what this is all about.”

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