The Happier (Virtual) Reality Of Ageing
The Ageing Revolution, People Tech Revolution
People Tech Revolution (2020)
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.
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.
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.
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.