"This is one reason why I think hair stylists are especially suited to seeing problems in their customers," Anderson said.
"Their older clients may sit in a chair for an hour or longer while they're having their hair done, and this may happen once or twice a month. So stylists are in a good position to recognize when things change with a client, and when they may need help."
Health and family problems are the issues most often brought up by elderly customers more than three-quarters of stylists have heard such complaints, the survey revealed. And more than a third of stylists said clients have discussed problems with depression or anxiety.
The vast majority of stylists said their response to hearing their clients' problems is to offer sympathy and support, and to try to cheer them up.
But fewer than half said they have given advice, and only about one-quarter have tried to get the client to speak to someone who can help them.
That's not because they are not willing to help, Anderson said. About two-thirds said they are willing to refer an older client to appropriate services.
But the problem, Anderson said, is that more than half 52 percent -- said they were not familiar with community services that may be helpful to older adults.
"It seems like a perfect setup stylists have access to older adults who may need someone to point them to the help they need. But at least this sample of stylists suggests they don't know what services are out there to help these folks," he said.
But could hairstylists identify older clients who needed professional help?
At least the stylists surveyed thought they could. The researchers asked participants to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest) their ability to recognize symptoms of depression, dementia and neglect in their
|Contact: Keith Anderson|
Ohio State University