Aging Parents and Wigs–2013 update

What happens when you put a new wig on an aging parent’s head? Surprise! At least for me.

Neither my husband’s mother nor I (I think I can speak for her, she’s often more attuned to these kind of things than I) realized that the majority of ready-made, out of the box, and thus less expensive, synthetic wigs are geared for the faces of relatively younger women. It’s not necessarily a problem of hair color; rather it’s a problem of style.

And when you think about it, it makes sense. While companies are beginning to act on the realization that people are living well longer, it seems these wig manufacturers are still catering to women who are newly-minted senior citizens and younger.

That said, it is possible to purchase synthetic wigs that compliment an older face. The skill of the people working in the wig boutique/shop is what makes the difference. For that reason, going on line to purchase a wig (unless you know the style # and have worn that wig previously) is not recommended; neither is using the Yellow Pages to make the initial phone call unless it’s to check whether or not the shop has someone who is experienced at thinning down and styling a ready-made wig.

Reason: these wigs are manufactured using a basic, simplistic, universal, oval face as the model and the commercially styled hair is thicker/fuller than the hair of most older people, whose hair often thins due to age. (This certainly would include many of our parents or we wouldn’t be thinking about wigs.)

Aging parents probably want a more conservative hairstyle. If making the phone call, ask about more conservative hairstyles for older people. Yes, I know, the styles are for “anyone” but frame an old face with a cool new style and there’s a major disconnect. This doesn’t mean a 70-something-year-old, with a young face, can’t wear a new style. The wig may need to be thinned a bit, but it works. For a 70-something-year-old with a lined or older looking face, however, forget it and go for the more conservative style.

I was curious about men who lose their hair and was told women far outnumber men when it comes to purchasing a wig. Then I was told about a man who came into a wig shop catering to men and women. He was wearing a hat over his balding head and wanted to purchase a “hairpiece.” (I understand the word “toupee” is passé.) It would have been trimmed and blended into his own hair. However, he tried on a wig; it looked “awesome.” It was trimmed to compliment his face and “off he went into the sunset without his hat—a happy camper.”

Michelle, at Wigs Amor and Forever Young in Arizona, says at both shops people come in thinking they know what they want but “more often than not, you like something you weren’t expecting.” It may take a while to decide on the right wig for the right natural look. And older people may not make decisions as quickly as younger ones, possibly because they take less risks and/or want more time to digest things.

So plan on taking some time if you have aging parents who want or need a wig. One thing I can vouch for: it’s not only helpful and supportive to shop for wigs with a mother or mother-in-law; it’s fun. And a lot of laughs!
7/25/13 The newest thing in wigs seems to be the “lace front.”    I guess that means “invisible front.” I recently met an old friend in her late 70’s. Hadn’t seen her in a year. Her hair looked great, in fact she looked great. Since you always look at someone when he or she is talking to you, after a while I realized she had a line above her forehead….but no wrinkles on her forehead. Closer observation, it was the–I guess–lace front wig. Older eyes might not notice. It’s pretty good– but wasn’t invisible to my eyes. 

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

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