Meet D, our newest Sr. Advisor. A former colleague and long-time friend, D has offered us aging insights for several years. Below she writes about a recent experience at her long-time “hair salon,” aka “hairdresser’s,” “beauty salon.”
Regardless of name, it’s a place women go ostensibly to look better. But it’s much more than that for many older women. It’s socialization, getting out of the house, therapy of sorts. Indeed it’s one of the few patterns of younger days that can easily continue well into old age.
Where else can an older person relax and count on being listened to, being pampered, being treated well? The hair salon’s supportive atmosphere lends itself to sharing thoughts and feelings. D takes it from here–
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“Each time you have a driver, you have to plan your trip. For instance, have him take you to the store, then to us to have your hair done, and then to meet your friends for lunch,” Karen explains.
Karen C., the proprietor of Magic Touch, a hair salon in the NYC suburbs, is advising Mrs. W, a bewildered 93-year old customer who has just stopped driving. Though she has long ago moved from the area, she has kept her weekly trips to Karen and wants to continue them.
A small, homey shop, Magic Touch has a large number of elderly women clients, many of whom have come to Karen since she, an enterprising 19-year old, bought the shop over 30 years ago. Some women have moved away from the immediate area but return for their regular appointments…with Karen for their hair; and with Karenʼs sister for their nails.
Mrs. L., still driving at 92, sweeps into the shop, her entrance a signal to Karen to despatch someone to feed the parking meter that Mrs. L. consistently forgets about. But she never forgets to give a warmly personal greeting to everyone. Her golden curls have remained unruffled since her last visit.
Karenʼs father has been a fixture in the shop since his failing eyesight forced him to stop driving six years ago. A good-looking man of 74, he spends most days sitting in the reception area, chatting with visitors. Heʼs fortunate in having his days pass in the company of his daughters and the many people, young and old, who come to the shop, but he says that the evenings are difficult. A widower, he lives alone and misses going out in the evening, to dinner or to see his friends.
Another customer, Mrs. S, stopped driving three years ago, at 89. “It changes your life,” she declares as Karen trims her boyish bob. “You can’t do anything on the spur of the moment. Before, when I wanted company, I loved jumping into my car to visit the library, where I could usually count on gossip with someone I knew. Or buy something I suddenly felt like eating, rather than what I had in my refrigerator.”
After her haircut, she settles in for more conversation. “So much of an older personʼs time is given to things she has to do – for herself or the house – Itʼs important to plan every day so there’s something you enjoy doing.” She herself enjoys reading, especially memoirs and biographies. Not novels – she craves connections with people in the real world. She has just read Hilary Clintonʼs Living History.
Mrs. G, who stopped driving last year at 88, has found another solution. “I tell my family, ʻGrandma doesnʼt want any more things from you. Give me the gift of your time, and take me out to places I want to go to. Your time is the greatest gift of all.ʼ”
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Regular appointments at the hair salon provide several keys to successful aging: getting out of the house, socializing (connections with others), and no doubt ending up looking better (and thus, feeling better). The challenge may be finding a salon like Karen’s.