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Guest Post: Miranda and Sophie on why age shouldn't get in the way of style

(22 Posts)
AnnaCGransnet Fri 30-Jul-21 16:47:23

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 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."

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M0nica Sat 31-Jul-21 08:45:06

Thank goodness someone is addressing this issue at last. I have been commenting how ugly most equipment designed for the disabled (of all ages) is for a long time.

I am fortunate not to need any help now and few of my older relatives did either, but I did need to buy some mobility aids for an aunt and found the whole thing really depressing.

My only gripe is the name grannygetsagrip. I so hate this automatic linking of older women with grandchildren with the disadvantages of age.

As I commented in another thread, the words granny and grandmother are honoured within the family as names for a dearly loved relative, but outside the family is so often used to denigrate olde woman 'set of old grannies' stupid grannies and so on, I find the name of your business rather distasteful and off putting.

The name will also put off a lot of customers and a lucrative market with younger disabled people, setting up home or needing help with mobility, who will really love having disability aids that are modern looking and designed with style. I cannot see them looking at yur site under its current name.

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 08:49:57

M0nica how right you are.
And what about young (or even old) men with disabilities?
And children?
Come on, the name of the company deserves more thought than opting for a quick gag.

lemongrove Sat 31-Jul-21 08:54:09

A really good idea, so well done Miranda and Sophie.
The name is a bit off putting it’s true, I think that something along the lines of would be better.
Anyway, good luck with your new

MawBe Sat 31-Jul-21 08:54:42

Re the name
Surely it references “Granny Takes a Trip” ?

Ethelwashere1 Sat 31-Jul-21 08:57:59

Good luck to these girls. I absolutely hate the thought of those institutional like bits of equipment.
Why should older people have to use ugly nasty stuff. Its the same with clothes.
The downside is that many older people will not or cannot pay for expensive items so the cost must not be too great.
As with many things older people tend to think, if it works and its free from the council, then its good enough. This leads to a two tier society. Im speaking from vast experience with an 89 year old mother. I hate to see poor/older people coping with old , inferior equipment and then seeing others with expensive lovely items.

Lucca Sat 31-Jul-21 09:00:27

Why not just “letsgetagrip “

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 09:04:23

Looking at the website, I can see that it’s a well established company, so a change of name is unlikely.
It’s a beautifully designed website, with lots of lovely things.

trisher Sat 31-Jul-21 09:29:06

Well I've looked at the website and compared items on it with other places. There are very similar items in the walking aids for considerably less than they are charging. There are some totally unusable things-an aluminium shopping trolly, with lovely holes so the little things fall straight through! And some things which have been around quite a long time -my mother had a flowery foldable walking stick.
I somehow feel an opportunity has been lost here. To completely redesign aids and not just tinker about with the material and the colour.

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 09:50:38

trisher a case of style over substance, I think.

Callistemon Sat 31-Jul-21 10:27:17

I like the look of the knee pads for gardening and not just for grannies!

lemsip Sat 31-Jul-21 10:36:35

So the site is only good if you have lots of spare money then......just checked out many of the products and all can be found for less money elsewhere. The long hot/cold water bottle at £85 for instance you can get at easylife site for £12.99 and even less at B&M. Yes I know, just saying.

lemsip Sat 31-Jul-21 10:37:58

trisher by the time I'd posted you had beat me to it. apologies.

Callistemon Sat 31-Jul-21 10:44:07

You're right trisher

The man who came to do some gardening for us the other week was wearing very sturdy knee pads but I doubt that he paid that much for them.
I'd like to know about comparable quality.

Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 11:29:15

I’ve been seeing this stuff in disability aids catalogues for years, and none of it’s particularly stylish. Dreary colours too. Sorry ladies, nice thought but it really doesn’t hit the spot.

FannyCornforth Sat 31-Jul-21 11:37:17

How is this a blog?
Surely it’s an advert?

trisher Sat 31-Jul-21 11:45:36

lemsip I didn't check a lot because I was busy, so I'm really pleased you confirmed what I thought. I do wonder why someone would think older people would pay loads more for something if it was just a different colour. It's as if we are magpies, or toddlers attracted to the brightest plastic toy in the shop.

Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 12:10:47

And then there’s this:

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.

Just no.

trisher Sat 31-Jul-21 15:12:51


And then there’s this:

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.

Just no.

My mum to the very last thought the solution to that "terrible problem" was a large bottle of Chanel No 5

FlexibleFriend Sat 31-Jul-21 16:21:59

I'm not that elderly but need several aids around the house. I don't like the institutional looking ones but have managed to get what I wanted at a reasonable price with a bit of searching. I think the website is pretty bog standard fare for aids and it's more expensive in every case compared to what I managed to find on line. It's also not very stylish and the things that did pique my interest could be quickly found on line in a multitude of colours for much less. The name is also very off putting.

M0nica Sat 31-Jul-21 16:35:19

FannyCornforth If this blog was meant to be advertising, it isn't working very well.

Blossoming Sat 31-Jul-21 16:42:28

Trisher I prefer your mum’s solution!