While caring for their mothers, Miranda Thomas and Sophie Dowling struggled to find the practical products that they needed, which were also well designed and stylish. They asked themselves why is it that as we get older we are treated as if we had no sense of taste? Are we meant to stop caring what our homes look like just because we’ve got, say, mobility issues? So, in lockdown they launched their own business. Now they're also manufacturing their own products too...
"The two of us - Miranda Thomas and Sophie Dowling have been friends since the age of three. Our mothers were close friends and powerful personalities. Sophie’s mother was a psychiatric social worker and Miranda’s mother, an interior designer. They were both very houseproud and design-conscious.
"Over the years we spent caring for them, we struggled to find the practical things they needed at all, and found it almost impossible to find versions they were happy to have in their houses. Sophie’s mother wouldn’t let anyone go into her bathroom as she felt humiliated by all the contraptions surrounding the toilet. She would also hide her walking aid, which looked like something out of a wartime torture chamber, behind the back door - which obviously had its drawbacks.
"More recently Sophie’s 91-year-old father has started to need bits and pieces around his house to make him more comfortable. The wonderful NHS has provided basic equipment - grab rails and raised toilet seats etc. But he needs much more now, like walking sticks, booster cushions, reachers and various kitchen aids, and as a result, his house of more than 50 years has begun to look more like a hospital than his home.
"As Sophie looked around for products to help him live independently nearly everything she found was institutional, poor quality and expensive. White plastic, pink velour and grey metal were definitely the order of the day! This got her thinking - why can’t aids for physical independence complement individuality and taste and be practical. It’s disrespectful that society assumes the older generation doesn’t care what something looks like as long as it does the job.
"During lockdown, with unexpected time on our hands, we finally decided to do something about it - as our generation gets older (we are both in our late 50s) it has become increasingly personal. We have eight children between us and the youngest had just started university. Miranda had recently given up her career as a physics teacher and Sophie had retrained in web-design.
"We spent weeks trawling through gloomy and unwieldy websites, offering an overwhelming array of cheap plastic aids. Try choosing a walking stick, a jam jar opener or even a specialist reading light from the 1000s of options available. Most of us have no idea where to start and don’t think about it until it’s urgent!
"To add insult to injury it felt like everything marketed to the over-65s was stuck in a post-war time warp - which is so wrong; today’s 70-year-olds were teenagers in the 1960s. We began to source, test and collate the best products we could find and in some cases manufacture our own. We were lucky that we had our fathers and Miranda’s stepmother to help out with product testing. We were also our own guinea pigs as we both have physical issues - Sophie hase bursitis of the hip and uses various support cushions and Miranda has terrible eye-sight and swears by the brilliant lights we’ve found.
"There’s lots out there that no one should wait until they are 91 to use - long-handled garden tools, mini electric blankets, posture cushions - to name a few.
"We have now launched our website www.grannygetsagrip.com which we hope goes some way to tackling the problems we originally came across while looking after our mothers. We’ve selected and tested a range of well designed, practical and stylish products - from grab rails to two-handled teapots via heat pads and rollators, we have worked hard to find the best available - whether you’re 60 recovering from a hip operation or 80 looking for some physical support.
"In fact, we’ve found it hard to resist many products that we hadn’t found before and are not specifically for the elderly, but just well designed for anyone of any age. So far the response has been entirely positive- there’s a sense of ‘about time too’ from customers. Our favourite response was from an 88-year-old thanking us for ‘fighting the white plastic syndrome.’ And we solve the terrible problems of what to give someone who would love a useful present rather than another bar of soap or tie.
"There’s no beating the ageing process, and physical deterioration gets us all in the end. We should all have cottoned on by now to the fact that with any luck we will live a long time as ‘old’ or with our health or mobility in some way compromised, so let’s make it a more appealing prospect by having the things we need functional and attractive. After all, baby equipment, food and household furniture have all gone through revolutions in design - now it’s time for the wisest/oldest people to be properly catered for."
Go to www.grannygetsagrip.com
AnnaCGransnet Fri 30-Jul-21 16:47:23
M0nica Sat 31-Jul-21 08:45:06
FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 08:49:57
lemongrove Sat 31-Jul-21 08:54:09
MawBe Sat 31-Jul-21 08:54:42
Ethelwashere1 Sat 31-Jul-21 08:57:59
Lucca Sat 31-Jul-21 09:00:27
FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 09:04:23
trisher Sat 31-Jul-21 09:29:06
FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 09:50:38
Callistemon Sat 31-Jul-21 10:27:17
lemsip Sat 31-Jul-21 10:36:35
lemsip Sat 31-Jul-21 10:37:58
Callistemon Sat 31-Jul-21 10:44:07
Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 11:29:15
FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 11:37:17
trisher Sat 31-Jul-21 11:45:36
Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 12:10:47
trisher Sat 31-Jul-21 15:12:51
FlexibleFriend Sat 31-Jul-21 16:21:59
M0nica Sat 31-Jul-21 16:35:19
Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 16:42:28