Lenny White is the world’s first dementia friendly barber who offers a mobile pop-up barber shop for men in care homes, day centres, hospitals and their own homes, who are living with dementia. Lenny White’s dementia-friendly mobile barber service has been such a hit with clients he’s taking the concept global.
Lenny got his diploma of Barbering / Barber in 2015 at SERC (South Eastern Regional College) in Bangor, Northern Ireland, where he learnt traditional and commercial cutting techniques, cutting hair designs and cutting facial hair. SERC offers small class size with expert lecturers. Created in 2016, Lenny the dementia friendly barber is based in Belfast. He covers all of Northern Ireland. He has had research, radio interviews, television and newspaper articles published about his unique concept.
When Lenny first engaged with people living with dementia, he was 17 years old and washing dishes at his local care home. Serving meals to the residents, he always enjoyed their company and found it easy to speak to them. He had a knack for being able to enter into their world and form connections, and he enjoyed hearing their stories and learning about what they had done in their lives. When families asked Lenny to spend time with their loved ones, he was always happy to help. “The term ‘dementia’ wasn’t really used in those days. People would just say the residents were ‘senile’ or ‘they’re just getting older’”. But time went on, and Lenny left the care home. With five children and a mortgage, Lenny for 20 years had a career in sales. “During that time, I always knew I was called to do something different”. After a divorce that meant shared custody of his children, Lenny had some time to himself. He thought long and hard about what he wanted to do, and retrained as a barber. It was only then thought of becoming a barber in nursing homes. In November 2016, a friend working in a care home asked Lenny to put on a ‘men’s day’ for residents. He brought in a few CDs, mainly Dean Martin and Elvis, and old-fashioned soap, and he set the room up to look like a traditional barber shop. Lenny noticed that even men who couldn’t speak were tapping their feet along to the music. Lenny knew immediately this was what he wanted to do.