Barbie social media image

"The most beautiful thing you can be is yourself” ~Barbie

I’m a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World

Whether you are planning on seeing the new Barbie movie on opening day, or if you are waiting for the SAG strike to resolve, I think we can all agree that Barbie is an iconic figure that has stood the test of time. Barbie turned 64 years old this year and this eleven-inch doll packs a big punch!  She was initially created in March of 1959 by Mattel. Barbie has incited controversy over the years and has gone through several “body modifications” since that time.  Mattel has also embraced the many criticisms and built an empire of Barbies through the multiple revisions and adaptations. Barbie transcends the boundaries of fashion and has been a role model to many over the years. She has had over 200 different careers, many of them in health care.

So, what can we learn from Barbie? As aging service providers there are many valuable lessons to be learned from the little icon in the pink box:

Adaptability: Barbie has managed to stay relevant for decades by continuously evolving and adapting to changing trends. Aging services providers should also be flexible and adapt their offerings to meet the changing needs and preferences of both those they serve and their workforce. Don’t stick with the status quo… everyone needs a new outfit every once in a while. 

Diversity and Inclusion: Over time, Barbie has introduced dolls of different ethnicities, body types, and professions, promoting diversity and inclusion.  Aging services should embrace diversity and cater to the unique requirements of a diverse older population. Look at the options you have and think about what the world holds for us as we age. What will the options be in 5, 10 or even 64 years? Think about making progress toward those options now.

Personalization: Barbie offers various accessories and outfits, allowing children to personalize their dolls. Similarly, aging services should offer personalized options to cater to individual preference and needs of older adults. Aging services providers also need to personalize the options available to our workforce in order to increase recruiting of a variety of staff.

Leveraging Nostalgia: Barbie taps into nostalgia, appealing not just to children but also to adults who grew up with the brand. Aging services can also leverage nostalgia to create positive and comforting experiences for older adults.

Building a Brand Identity: Barbie has a strong brand identity that resonates with its target audience. Aging services providers should develop a distinctive brand identity that communicates their mission, values and commitment to serving older adults.

Effective Communication: Barbie’s marketing campaigns effectively communicate the brand’s message and benefits. Aging services providers should focus on clear and compelling communication to convey the value they offer to older adults and their families.  LeadingAge has created amazing tools in the Opening doors to aging services to assist providers to develop a brand identity and has researched the strategies that resonates with older adults and their families.

Collaborations and Partnerships: Barbie has collaborated with various brands and influencers to extend its reach. Aging services providers can also benefit from partnerships with other organizations to enhance their services and reach a wider audience. Your membership with LeadingAge keeps you connected to our network of organizations that are all advocating for older adults and the services they need.

Embracing Technology: Barbie has embraced technology, introducing interactive and digital features. Aging services providers should also embrace technology to improve the quality of care, communication, and engagement with older adults. LeadingAge CAST Center and our many LeadingAge business partners keep us connected to the pulse of what is new and innovative to improve the lives of older adults and improve the quality of care they receive.

By applying these lessons, aging services providers can enhance their approach to serving older adults and create more impactful experiences for their target audience. Who knows, maybe one day Mattel will come out with an older adult Barbie. 

I just hope I look that good when I am 64!


Kierstin Reed, MSW, MPA
CEO, LeadingAge Nebraska