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The Happier (Virtual) Reality Of Ageing

A person with short, wavy, gray hair is smiling and standing with arms crossed. They are wearing a black blazer over a black top and large, round earrings. The background is plain and softly lit, capturing the confident aura of an entrepreneur ready to embark on starting a business.

Leonie Sanderson

The Ageing Revolution, People Tech Revolution​

The Business
The Ageing Revolution (2015)
People Tech Revolution (2020)
The Founder
Leonie Sanderson, with Simon Lowe
The Concept
Eradicating ageism in all its forms through storytelling, games, imagery and digital design
The Best Thing About Running Your Own Business
Having autonomy over your time and the work you choose to do
The Worst Thing About Your Start-up Experience
Taking on a co-founder and it all going belly-up. “I haven’t spoken to a single person who hasn’t had something like that in the lead-up to success.”

The Road Trip That Started It All ​

In 2014 life changed significantly for Leonie Sanderson. She was working for the Queensland government managing the then-Office for Seniors and looking after the Seniors Card program, when she met her NSW counterpart Simon Lowe during their annual state managers’ workshop.

Sanderson had been feeling disillusioned with the slow pace of change in the public service and frustrated by her inability to make a real difference in the ageing space when she and Lowe began chatting about the power of storytelling.

“We got talking about how great it would be to have a storytelling bus and drive around recording the stories of older people, share them and lift the awareness of the positive experiences of older people in Australia, shift the idea that it’s all doom and gloom. Because it’s not,” Sanderson says.

Fast forward to October 2015 and not only had the pair fallen in love, but they had co-founded a small business: The Ageing Revolution that aimed to challenge the misconceptions of age and ageism itself through storytelling.

Sanderson and Lowe set off on a road trip interviewing older people about their experiences of ageing in Australia. They collated the wealth of material and launched Carked It!, an hilarious card game that tackles the taboo subjects of death, dying and the beyond; and Pikme, an inspiring online photo gallery that shows the diversity of ageing in all its vibrant, colourful and active full forms that users can download or view.

Three people are sitting at a table in a café. The middle person, an entrepreneur, is speaking and gesturing with her hands. The person on the left is smiling while the one on the right is using a laptop. A “Byron Bay International Film Festival” sign is visible in the lower right corner.

The Self-funded Start-up

Initially the pair funded the business themselves. A single parent, Sanderson was conscious of the financial risk she was taking, but it was a calculated risk.

“I was 48 and it made no sense to leave a six figure job, no sense at all and lots of women said to me, ‘Wow, you are really brave!’ I got a bit worried, but I’d had a public service job, I had long service leave and a decent amount of super as a buffer.”

Soon The Ageing Revolution was consulting for the membership-based organisation National Seniors, doing a range of pop-ups in shopping centres talking to people about the ageing experience; while a Queensland government grant enabled them to develop a mobile app for carers.

“After doing the app we got into the tech space,” Sanderson says.

Various contracts and government grants followed with the Council on the Ageing, the Queensland government and QUT, devising everything from workshops that were rolled out across Queensland implementing ‘age friendliness’ in the community to building age-friendly community toolkits.

Coupled with a part-time job Sanderson was juggling with Health Consumers Queensland, the grants and contracts enabled The Ageing Revolution to continue.

“If I hadn’t had that part-time work it would have been much, much harder. But it’s not unusual for start-ups who use their own funding to do that,” Sanderson says.

An elderly woman wearing a virtual reality headset is being assisted by a young man with long hair. They are in a room with wooden floors and red walls. A man in the background is working on a laptop, possibly researching female businesses. Behind them, a screen displays engaging visuals.
An elderly person is sitting in a chair using a VR headset and controllers, while a woman stands next to them, assisting. The setting appears to be a communal room with tables, chairs, and various activity supplies. Both individuals are wearing face masks. It’s inspiring to see how technology can foster connections in female businesses focused on seniors' well-being.

The Vr Expansion Into Business #2

Little did Sanderson know that in 2020 she and Lowe would found a second small business. Through the app the pair met a company working with virtual reality (VR) to help shift people’s various unconscious biases, the very reason The Ageing Revolution existed, so they began exploring that too.

“It spun out into a VR company, People Tech Revolution (PTR),” says Sanderson, now based in Airlie Beach. “We had to pivot and do something that was going to be financially good for us but that also supported our other work.”

Today PTR works beyond the ageing space, using VR for employee training and to improve workplace culture and inclusion; although the two businesses often overlap: a recent QUT partnership saw them take VR into an aged care setting while they regularly run workshops introducing older people to VR. They also created a bespoke virtual reality experience, Archer’s Lab, for the Accelerator for Enterprising Women which helps women increase their confidence in pitching their business ideas.

The PTR team has grown to 12 full and part-time staff and the organisation is looking to share some of its success and grow its impact by collaborating with other partners.

“We’re looking at ways to support, even at micro levels, other organisations or people who are interested in the ageing space,” Sanderson says.

Advice For Start-Ups


It’s OK to start slowly. “A lot of people think it’s going to be super easy to transition from fulltime work to having your own business but you’ll find a natural point where things tip one way or the other and you can safely step away and let the side hustle become your main thing.”


Employ a good accountant, early.


Sign up to industry newsletters, events and programs that offer mentoring and advice. “We were part of [disability tech accelerator] Remarkable and through that we met different legal advisers. If you can, find someone willing to give you pro bono advice in the early days, because lawyers cost a lot of money.”


Use your network. “Don’t underestimate the connections you already have that can take you into the next thing.”


Trust your instincts. “We took on a co-founder [that ended disastrously] because we thought we weren’t experienced enough to do it alone.”


Don’t be afraid to talk up your business. “I underestimated how much private business is a boys club, women tend to under-sell their idea of success. If you want investment as a woman you almost have to talk it up.”


Some more enterprising journeys: