We were delighted to hear recently that one of CABS' associate members, Dr Richard Ward, now at the University of Manchester, was successful in getting funding from the ESRC for his research about the role of hairdressing in the lives of older people with high support needs. He says:
"The purpose of this research is to explore the role that hairdressing plays in the lives of older people who are high-level users of health and social care. This will include investigating the formal/paid services provided by hairdressers, as well as the styling and management of hair undertaken by care workers. The research will take account of how image and appearance is managed and maintained by older service users, the importance attached to hairstyles in care settings and explore the links between how we look and how we feel.
Existing research has shown that hair is important to our self-image and that hairdressing is associated with improvements to self-esteem, especially for women and that this increases with age. As hairdressing has not been viewed as a crucial feature of health and social care provision it has tended to be overlooked by research. This means little is known about good practice or what potential it has to support positive outcomes for older service users in respect to promoting a positive self-image in the context of deteriorating health and limiting long-term and mental health conditions such as dementia.
The importance of the research is that it will provide evidence and insights to support an on-going debate over how to balance the needs of service users with pressures of time and funding in the organisation of care. It will also help to better understand the importance of the 'body-work' undertaken by care workers and how this work can support positive relationships in care and help to avoid decline, depression and neglect. The research will also have direct benefits to the hairdressing industry as little is currently known about the experiences of care-based hairdressers and how best to support them"
He and one of CABS' core members, Caroline Holland, have an article out in the current issue of the journal Ageing and Society
Ward, Richard and Holland, Caroline (2011). 'If I look old, I will be treated old': hair and later-life image dilemmas. Ageing and Society, 31(02), pp. 288–307.
I'm looking forward to learning more about this neglected topic.