Gwen, pictured below, had broken her back after a fall and, with her daughter’s help, began the long road to recovery.
“Mum was in and out of hospital for six months and most of the time she was in a hospital gown or we would put a loose dressing gown on her and they are just ugly,” Charlie said.
“Getting mum in and out of clothes was challenging.
“For me to see my mother go from relatively active to this droopiness was emotionally challenging and there are a lot of carer stories out there like this.
“Once we got her healthy again – she has a little bit of mobility impairment and shoulder issues – it was mainly being able to get things over her head and being able to dress herself.”
During this time, Charlie floated the idea of an active wear range for elderly people with mobility issues but it failed to gain much traction.
However, as a result of an increased focus on exercise in aged care and a renewed energy for the concept, the South Australian entrepreneur last month launched Age Fit Wear and hopes to be sell her first garments in October.
She will test some of her first garments – a singlet/sports bra type undergarment, T-shirt, track pants and a crossover jacket – on Gwen this month ahead a series of fashion parades at aged care facilities in Adelaide, the South Australian capital, in October.
Design features include larger arm and neck openings to allow tops to be fitted more easily, soft fabrics that are gentle on the skin and toggle fastenings instead of zips or studs to cater for people with limited dexterity.
While she is determined to push ahead with the range regardless, Charlie last month launched a campaign on crowd funding site Pozible to raise some money to help fund a catalogue and other marketing activities.
She said she had fielded inquiries from the United States and United Kingdom and was also looking into using fabrics with health benefits such as wound-healing properties.
“Since I launched the idea through Pozible and started to talk to people about it there’s a whole new perspective on where it could go,” she said.
“The amount of people who are saying to me ‘my mother would love that because she can’t get into the traditional fitness clothes’ has been amazing.”
“I’ve had two or three major aged care providers asking for fashion parades because they know there is a real need for this sort of thing.”
The aged care industry is evolving rapidly as the Baby Boomer generation enters their 70s and life expectancy continues to climb. This includes an increased focus on healthy eating and exercise.
South Australia has the oldest population of any mainland Australian state, prompting the state government to this year launch a AU$4 million Healthy Ageing project through the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).
Charlie is working with Adelaide-based Marino Uniforms to source the fabrics and manufacture the initial range in South Australia.
She said the Age Fit Wear logo – a sprig of rosemary – was associated with remembrance and was meant as a symbol to help elderly people remember “they are gorgeous”.
“It’s the whole dignity thing in aged care where we need to remember there’s a person behind the clothing and that person still wants to feel good about themselves and the rosemary leaf was specifically chosen for that purpose,” Charlie said.