Today we talk with Chris Donnelly from Lottie about later life, ageism and how Barbie can make a difference!

Please could you introduce yourself and what you do.

Sparked by struggles to find suitable care for my own family members. I’ve got a passion to improve standards of care and challenge the care industry’s long-standing status quo. I have a strong background in digital and tech, before Co-Founding Lottie, I founded and was CEO of Verb Brands. A company I launched at university and grew organically into one of the world’s most leading digital and tech agencies.

Combining my expertise in technology and Will’s experience in the social care sector,  we launched Lottie. A later living marketplace using technology to help millions of elderly people across the world live a happier, healthier and more fulfilled later life, whilst driving positive change in the eldercare sector.

later life
Tell us a little more about Lottie and why you decided to start it.

In July 2021, my brother and I founded Lottie, a digital care home marketplace – to help families place their loved ones into the best care homes and retirement living at affordable and fair prices.

In addition to providing support to find the best elderly care for your loved ones, we also support retirement seekers to find their dream later living home. Working alongside some of the biggest providers in the retirement sector.

Each care home and retirement living property listed on Lottie are vetted and selected by a team of care experts for their outstanding care, facilities, and homely environments. From outstanding care ratings and 5* customer reviews to luxury facilities and thriving experiences, Lottie partners with the UK’s best care homes and retirement living operators that offer an enhanced later living experience and home culture like no other.

Lottie is the UK’s first directory to showcase a vetted supply of care homes. To offer care seekers full transparency when it comes to residency fees. We’ve done this by making it compulsory for care providers to showcase their care home fees to care seekers.

Over the last 2 years we have grown from strength to strength growing and dominating the later life sector. We are challenging the status quo of the long-standing care industry, helping thousands of families across England, Scotland and Wales.

Do you find the pressures on mental health a factor for clients and their families?

Definitely. The number of unpaid carers across the UK providing care for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives has almost doubled over the last 10 years. This is according to new research released by the ONS.

One in five adults are now providing unpaid care for a relative or friend. As an unpaid carer, you’re more likely to experience stress, burnout, and depression. We’re at the tipping point of an unpaid carers’ crisis in the workplace. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic and now cost-of-living increases.

An ageing population means more people are living longer. Many of us have found ourselves caring for a friend or relative who are no longer able to live on their own. All this whilst juggling their responsibilities in the workplace.

Over the last 12 months we have seen a surge in carers’ seeking advice and support for mental health. Online searches for ‘feeling trapped caring for an elderly parent’ surging by 875% and ‘carer exhaustion’ increasing by 150%.

We’re already seeing the stress that unpaid carers are facing in their everyday lives. Right now, we need to place even more pressure on the government to ensure there’s enough support for unpaid carers across the UK.

We recently wrote about Lottie’s reimagining of an age friendly Barbie and we adore her.  What was the inspiration behind her?

In a world that often worships youthfulness and fears ageing, the positive aspects of growing older are frequently overlooked. Ageing is a natural journey marked by wisdom, experience, and resilience. It is crucial for younger generations to witness representations of age in the media and in their lives. This is needed to understand and appreciate the diverse stages of life.

At Lottie, we firmly believe in promoting inclusivity and representation across all age groups. Our age-friendly Barbie is a powerful step towards challenging stereotypes. Inspiring individuals to embrace every stage of life with confidence and pride. It is essential for younger generations to witness the beauty of ageing to create a world where everyone’s journey is celebrated.

With the launch of our age-friendly Barbie, we invite people of all ages to join the movement and celebrate the beauty of ageing. Together, we can pave the way for a future where individuals are seen, accepted, and celebrated, regardless of age.

later life
How much pressure do you feel the people in later life are under, to remain youthful?

New research from Lottie has found a 100% increase over the last 12 months on Google for searches around ‘discrimination against elderly’.

Previous research has found negative stereotypes associated with older people: including loneliness, dependent, poor health, and socially isolated. These stereotypes are nothing but harmful. They leave the older generations at risk of discrimination – which is becoming an increasingly bigger problem in society.

With people living longer, making society a positive, safe, and accessible space – especially with the crises we’re all facing right now with the cost-of-living – is more important than ever before.

Raising awareness of the biggest myths about the older population is a great step in removing these from society. Sharing the incredible stories, shared experiences, and contributions to society that the older generations have every day is essential.

How do you hope that your version of Barbie could make a difference?

Lottie’s age friendly Barbie redefines beauty standards and celebrates the positives of ageing in a number of ways. For example, Lottie’s age-friendly Barbie highlights the beauty of growing old. The lines on one’s face or the grey hairs that start to show are a testament to the wisdom gained, memories created, and the laughter shared from a fulfilled life as we age.

As we age, we gather a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, gained through life diverse experiences and challenges. Embracing age means embracing the lessons learned and the growth achieved and the plenty of life lessons to be shared with younger generations.

Society plays a vital role in shaping perceptions, attitudes, and cultural norms. Younger generations need to witness the beauty and strength that comes with ageing. Breaking away from the stereotypes that have long confined older individuals to limited roles in narratives. By embracing age-positive initiatives like Lottie’s age-friendly Barbie, we can create a more compassionate, inclusive, and age-friendly society.

Do you find that the same pressures befall men in later life?

Ageism is something that impacts older generations, no matter their gender. Men and women are often both impacted by ageism myths such as, older people aren’t suited to the workplace, and you can’t learn anything new when you’re old.

Older people don’t all neatly fit into stereotypes and convenient boxes. Later life is diverse and complex. It’s important as a society we begin to accept there is no one way to grow old and break down barriers to age.

Are there any other significant mental health challenges you see for people in later life?

Often, the most common mental health concern impacting older adults is cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is an ‘umbrella’ term for a progressive condition that often affects someone’s memory, way of thinking and behaviour. Each person’s experience of dementia is different, and the signs, symptoms and progression of the condition can vary.

Almost 1 million people in the UK are living with dementia and this is only expected to increase over the next few years.

As our understanding of dementia develops the care industry will be able to offer very specific and tailored care to each dementia patient.

With greater insights into the signs, symptoms and causes of dementia, care homes can use these findings to develop their dementia friendly spaces and activities. As well as working with families and residents to create highly personalised care plans. Elevating the quality of life for those living with dementia.

later life
Is being more inclusive of our older generations the answer?  What more could be done to boost mental health in later life?

Promoting inclusivity for older generations is a crucial step, but not the sole answer. To enhance the wellbeing of older adults a multifaceted approach is needed. This includes accessible mental health services, tailored to their unique needs, and raising awareness to break down the barriers of ageism.

Community engagement, fostering intergenerational relationships, and creating opportunities for skill development can help older generations to feel connected to their community too.

Will you be reimagining any other children’s toys in the future?

My goal with Lottie is to elevate later living and challenge the status quo. We are always looking for new ways to break the norm and address misleading stereotypes about ageing. We loved re-imaging Barbie as her 83-year-old self and look forward to our next campaign addressing ageism.

Google search data based on internal analysis of Google Keyword Planner August 2022 – July 2023 – Full data set available upon request

About Author

Erika is bright, bubbly and friendly. Studying to be a counsellor, she is committed to helping others in the pursuit of better mental health. Having suffered from mental health issues herself including severe anxiety and PTSD, she wants to show others that the light at the end of the tunnel is not just a cliché!
Erika enjoys spending time with her little one, friends and family, crafting, reading, writing, music gaming, cooking, creating art, cacti and llamas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *