Last week I was in the nail salon having my usual manicure/pedicure. I’m meant to go every two weeks, but I don’t. Usually I wait about three weeks to a month before returning to the nail studio for them to take off the old nail polish and put new on. I’m 34, busy and with a household, company and non-profit to run, how can I spare close to two hours on any given day, I think to myself. Last week my perspective was realigned.
I tend to go mid-week as it’s less busy. In London you’re hard pushed to find a slot on weekends. It’s a case of leaving the office at lunchtime and taking a long lunch break to fit this in. There were a few women my age in the salon last week, mid-thirties with hurried looks on their faces, each about to rush back to the office, pretty standard. Then I noticed as I settled into my pedispa chair, that across from me sat an older lady who must of been of retirement age, wearing a red coat with curled white hair. She chatted to everyone who sat beside her, all having their fingernails painted.
She talked about how she liked the colour red and was having her nails painted a bright red colour. I thought of my Mother and how I would paint her fingernails after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, before she went to live in a care home. It was something that seemed to bring the old Joan back. The once-was career woman who wore designer suits to work and though unlike me, never wore a full face of make-up, was never without painted nails and lipstick when working in London.
Just before the lady in the red coat left the salon she turned to a woman on her right and said, Do you know, I feel so proud with my bright red nails. It makes you feel good doesn’t it. The lady sitting next to her laughed. She continued, I am really proud of myself. It makes all the difference to have nice nails.
It was a passing comment, a snippet of my rushed day but it stood out. Maybe it stood out because usually women in the nail salon are my age or because it reminded me of my Mother or likely because I run a non-profit that exists to help the majority at a later stage in life. Early onset dementia has affected those in their 20’s and 30’s but the average age for Alzheimer’s is 65. Interesting to me was the word proud, such a great thing for the self and self esteem. I wondered: when I’m the lady in the red coat, at retirement age, will a trip to the salon be a reason to leave the house? Will it mean as much to me as it did to her?
What I particularly liked about painting nails for Mum was that even if she didn’t remember having them painted that day, every time she looked at her hands, she saw the polish, smiled and commented on them. Her carers would tell her what beautiful nails she had and within a matter of weeks she was telling everyone: My daughter does it, isn’t she good. Remarkable considering her Alzheimer’s. It served as a talking point. A feel good factor and it gave her back some dignity. Just like that, a little polish made a very lonely lady very happy.
I found an article on feel good nail painting and the why’s over on Belle Mocha’s blog, Why Painting Your Nails Could Actually Change Your Life
The lady in the red coat left the salon before I did, walking with some difficulty and leaning on a walking stick. She wandered out and paused beyond the window in the street. I watched her. For a moment she seemed lost. In the salon for an hour or so she had been ‘one of the girls’, chatting, enjoying life and as she said, feeling good about herself. I felt sad that she perhaps now had nowhere to go, then I thought of the bright side; she is still able to go out alone, many are not and she seemed to enjoy herself so much sitting with her hands under the UV lamp waiting for her gel polish to fix.
I was certain she’d be back again.
If anyone reading this knows of anyone who has undertaken a nail course in the Tendering Penisnula area and would like to offer nail painting for the ladies, or even gents requiring a MAN-icure in our TLS Dementia Cafe once built, please urge them to contact us. Details on our contact page. Thank you for reading.
Writer: Emily-Jane Stapley -Founder
Image credits: Tumblr