To honor her hairstylist grandmother who had passed away, Rachel Doyle, 17, started GlamourGals: a nonprofit in which young volunteers provide makeovers and companionship for women in senior facilities.
Rachel reminisced, “She (my grandmother) lived in a senior home and had a career in beauty and fashion. I loved the idea of bringing back an old beauty shop, and I came up with the idea of giving manicures to seniors in homes. GlamourGals gave its first makeover in 2000, and now twelve years later, we have 1,400 volunteers.”
It wasn’t that easy at first though. After being turned down by homes for not having an adult in charge or company sponsors, Rachel began making calls and receiving donations. She completed the very first makeover herself with two friends at a nursing home in Commack, New York.
Since then, Rachel has started close to 70 chapters nationwide and mobilized over 1,000 volunteers. Now, she’s the CEO of GlamourGals and enables teens and seniors to spend quality time together to bond over beauty and fashion.
Rachel has had many memorable moving encounters. On her first visit to a senior center in New York, one woman named Faye seemed indifferent to her manicure and makeover, but afterward, Rachel received a surprising call.
“The activities director said, ‘I want to let you know that Faye was severely depressed and had stopped eating, but after your makeover, she started eating again,’” Rachel said.
Actual and perceived social isolation are real problems, and they are associated with increased risk for early mortality and diminished cognitive performance. The health effects of prolonged isolation can be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
As an organization, GlamourGals believes that “senior care should not be limited to food, shelter, and healthcare. Community connections are also a necessity.” Isolation is a growing health epidemic. More than 1 million seniors will spend time in senior homes across the United States, and it is estimated that nearly 60% of senior home residents never receive visitors.
“Some of the residents are separated from their families; they are separated from their communities. It’s important that we bring the community to them as much as possible,” Tracy, a senior center activity director, commented.
As reported by Solitary Watch, Dr. Terry Kupers, an expert on the mental health effects of solitary confinement, said, “Physical contact is a requirement of being human. There’s something healing about it.”
GlamourGals volunteers provide seniors with personal attention and the opportunity to share their stories. This wonderful organization reminds the community that there are people out there who need a little uplifting every now and then, and volunteering helps to ensure that every person feels remembered.
To start a GlamourGals chapter at your school or to volunteer with the organization, email [email protected] for more information.