Great sex, ignore the mutton naysayers, don’t be sniffy at cosmetic ‘tweakments’: former Cosmo editor Linda Kelsey reveals her rules for staying sassy and stylish at 70
- Linda Kelsey shares advice for staying stylish and in control at the age of 70
- The former editor of Cosmopolitan says ‘retirement is not the right word’
- She explains shopping in Zara is fine and that you’re not too old for tweakments
A big birthday is approaching, and I find myself in a reflective mood. I can recall my 20s through to my 40s as if they were yesterday.
The speed of time is hard to comprehend. As a journalist in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I worked on glossy magazines which both chronicled and contributed to the huge strides women were making in their lives. It was that glorious — if, with hindsight, naive — era in which women were first told that they could Have It All.
The magazines I edited, Cosmopolitan and, later, she, were read by women hungry for advice on how to make the most of new freedoms.
Ex editor of Cosmopolitan Linda Kelsey (pictured) contemplates turning 70 and shares advice for staying stylish and making new friends
In their 20s and 30s, they wanted to know how to improve relationships and boost their careers; how to break the confines of domestic roles and stereotypes which their mothers had never been able to cast off.
When I was 36, I had my beloved son. In a flash, he’s about to turn 34. With his birth, the realities of that frantic juggle of motherhood and work and marriage hit home, and again my magazines were there to support and advise other women going into their 40s with hands fuller than ever.
At 70, will we Have-It-All Cosmo girls now become little old ladies? Or, on the contrary, should we strive to stay forever young?
The truth is, my pioneering generation has always gone its own way. Today, I feel more strongly than ever that we must do as we please with our final few decades.
So no, I’m not going to spend my 70s in denial, shaving years off my age when people ask, staving off the wrinkles with secret nips and tucks. I’m going continue to live life as fully as I can, for as long as I can, while accepting both the inevitable passage of time and that old is what I am.
I’ll also be taking inspiration from the feisty, still-fun-loving, engaged and productive seventysomethings I see around me, as they shatter the myths of decrepitude and decay.
Here are some of my personal mantras — and advice — for the decade ahead…
Linda (pictured) says that she is not ready to retire and insists that you can still find love over the age of 70
OF COURSE YOU CAN STILL SHOP IN ZARA
There’s not a single label I’d eschew on the grounds of age alone. Zara is my favourite destination for clothes that are low cost and stylish. Yes, the average customer is half my age. I don’t care, and neither should you.
Just follow my strategy for shopping there with confidence:
1. Don’t linger longingly by the rails of things you’ll never wear. In my case, that means mini-skirts, crop tops, racer backs, halternecks and, these days, anything that exposes blobby upper arms or ever-lower knees.
2. Do not hope to step outside the changing cubicle, do a twirl and have other shoppers or sales assistants tell you how great you look. You are invisible. Instead, rely on your own well-honed judgment.
3. Remember the classics at which Zara excels. Great blazers and jackets in safe navy or wild emerald or shocking pink, according to taste; lovely silky shirts; flattering printed palazzostyle pants and cropped-abovethe-ankle trousers; pretty blouses. I’ve also bought gorgeous dresses for special occasions for as little as £29.99.
4. Ignore the mutton naysayers. If you have a thing for leather or a penchant for leopard print, don’t hold back. Be you. And don’t be persuaded to ditch denim; you can still look great in jeans.
THERE’S GREAT SEX TO BE HAD IN YOUR 70s!
We cannot expect to be performing sexual acrobatics or have the same energy and passion as we did 40 years ago — let’s get that out of the way. But …if you’re widowed, divorced or single and still hoping to find love — you can.
Don’t give up on dating. There are now dating apps and sites aimed at older people, such as Our Time. It’s been a godsend to my widowed friend Judith Cannon.
Now 74, Judith tells me: ‘At first I thought all I was looking for was a walking companion. Then I realised I’d rather like to have sex as well.’
What Judith has is confidence. ‘I take great pleasure in helping older men to have good sex. You have to realise they get very nervous as they age. And as far as your body is concerned, my experience is that men are not looking to be critical.’
For some, by the time you get to your 70s, it’s not so much about sex. I was lucky to meet a new love in my late 50s, and the sexual spark has yet to be extinguished.
For plenty of couples I know, though — those who have been together for 40 or even 50 years — it’s simply not on the agenda.
There may be physical (or emotional) impediments to sex, which is not to say there’s no room for intimacy — hugging, touching, kissing, appreciating one another.
At this age, it’s very much about quality, not quantity.
RETIREMENT IS NOT THE RIGHT WORD
Most of the seventy-somethings I know are living such engaged lives that they say they have no idea how they ever found time for a job.
One female friend has taken up the piano. Another, who ran a business for several decades, has become a volunteer business mentor to young people and says she’s not sure she’s ever before felt such satisfaction.
An old colleague, having finally joined a gym after swearing it was the last thing she would ever do, declares herself fitter, stronger and with more energy than she had 20 years ago.
I am not retired — there’s no particular end date for a freelance writer — but I do have a lot more time available these days.
Time for meeting friends, appreciating spring on long walks (leaving my mobile phone at home so I can concentrate on my surroundings rather than my screen), or meandering round art galleries in the middle of the day.
How lucky — and lovely — is that? A plea, though: please can we find a different word to describe this life phase? The word ‘retiring’ suggests a withdrawal, not just from paid employment, but from life. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Linda Kelsey pictured with her partner Ron. They are currently devoting much time to helping a refugee family of five Ukrainians find shelter
Starters for ten… recalibrating? Re-engaging? Reinvigorating? Answers on a postcard, please.
NEVER TOO OLD FOR TWEAKMENTS
I always used to be sniffy about cosmetic surgery, but I’ve softened having seen just how much better a number of surgically tweaked seventy-somethings feel about themselves.
Recently, in my social group, I’ve witnessed an eyelid lift, a second facelift, a bingo-wing job and breast-reduction surgery. All four women are feeling particularly perky about their appearance. Who am I to disagree?
Personally, I’ve never been tempted by Botox or fillers. In fact, by today’s standards I’m low maintenance.
Manicures, pedicures, roots and buckets of moisturiser. Frankly, I can’t be bothered with much else. But on the fitness front, I’m moving into a whole new era.
I was shocked to discover recently that by the age of 70, many of us will have lost up to 50per cent of our muscle strength.
Daily one-hour walks and thrice-weekly Pilates will continue, but my focus will be on building strength — squatting, lunging, weight-bearing exercises to ward off yet more muscle loss.
The knack is to strike a balance between accepting ageing while not giving in to it.
JUST GET BORING PAPERWORK DONE
Get the gloomy side of putting your affairs in order over and done with. It will take a large burden off your shoulders.
I rewrote my will. Most of what’s left will go to my son, but I also want to make some provision for my partner, Ron, as we are not married and things won’t automatically pass to him. Sorted.
Equally pressing, powers of attorney for both health and financial affairs. I’ve too often witnessed the nightmare that can ensue if paperwork isn’t in place.
What if I were to have a sudden stroke and lose the ability to speak and write, or develop Alzheimer’s, and no one could access my money? My son would have to shoulder this alone.
He now has the power of attorney, with my nephew as back-up. I urge you to do it, and do it now. I could have paid a solicitor and it would have cost about £800 — but I decided to do it myself.
With all that cash saved, I might just scoot off to Paris for a romantic weekend with Ron.
Linda is a stepgran to Ron’s five-year-old grandson, and she loves it when he comes to sleep over
NOT BEING AVAILABLE TO GRANDKIDS IS FINE
The joy that grandchildren bring is immeasurable — but it is not your duty always to be available for babysitting.
If you’ve spent most of your life working, and are looking forward to enjoying your leisure, you don’t have to swap the paid job for the unpaid one of willing/unwilling martyr granny.
If you long for a late-life gap year, you should do it and not be guilttripped out of it.
Be a good granny, a loving granny, a fun granny, a helpful granny; just don’t be a doormat granny.
I’m stepgran to my partner’s gorgeous five-year-old grandson, and I love it when he comes to sleep over. I also love to sleep in, and sometimes I need to make that clear, too.
YES, YOU CAN MAKE NEW FRIENDS
Too old to make new friends? Nonsense! Not only do some friends, sadly and inevitably, die, but others become more boring or annoying than you can bear.
You see them out of loyalty, you have the same old conversations over and over, and make the same complaints about them after yet another dull evening in their company.
Keep them, by all means, because loyalty and longevity count, but ditch the notion that there’s something ‘sad’ about seeking out new companions.
New friends will give you new perspectives, open up your world. They won’t replace the ones you’ve lost and hold lovingly in your heart, but by stimulating you, they will make you more interesting. New friends, like new lovers, need nurturing. The gym, an evening class, walking the dog — all offer the possibilities of finding a new friendship.
Start with a walk, or an invitation for coffee; then move on to supper or a movie. This applies regardless of whether you’re single or in a relationship.
I made new friends in my 60s, and I’ll be doing the same in the decade to come.
STUDY FOR A DEGREE — AND KEEP READING
I studied for a BA in my late-50s and early-60s. Then in my mid-60s I embarked on an MA in art history.
A friend — a new one, as it happens — who had an illustrious career at the BBC, has just turned 70 and begun a law degree. Terrified to begin with, now she’s absolutely loving it.
We can’t prevent dementia but one of the best ways to keep it at bay, according to all the experts, is by challenging your brain.
Linda (pictured) says that you should still make new friends and that it is never too late to study for a degree
You don’t have to take up formal study — there’s a wealth of online learning out there.
Too much of a faff? Even doing the cryptic crossword and, of course, reading will keep your neurons fired up.
FIND NEW PURPOSE IN BEING ‘USEFUL’
I am currently devoting much of my time to helping a refugee family of five Ukrainians find shelter. I plan to give a temporary home to Jenia and her 12-year-old daughter, Kira.
A friend and neighbour will host Jenia’s two nieces, aged 21 and 19, and nephew, 15.
All have fled from Kharkiv, one of the worst-hit cities in the war.
I have also found friends to house another family I was told about.
I loved my job as a magazine editor over many years. I’ve had a wonderful working life. Maybe, coming up to 70, I was feeling the need to do something ‘useful’. With a spare room now that my son has left the nest, I have the space — and the time — to help.
The phrase ‘giving back’ has become a cliche, but this is the decade in which I feel it comes into its own.
TIME TO EMBRACE THE POWER OF NOW
By the time my own lovely mum was 70, she had already been ill for a number of years with anxiety, depression and Parkinson’s disease. She lingered on, unhappily and unwell, until she was 87.
As I approach 70, I realise I have so much to look forward to — and that’s what I shall focus on.
I will continue to write, to learn new things, to spend money on clothes I don’t need, and to enjoy my family and my friends.
I will be grateful that I grew up in an era which offered unprecedented opportunities to women, enabling us to have children and to enjoy fulfilling careers as well.
I will recognise that I have more confidence in my abilities and my opinions than I ever did when I was younger. And, frankly, that I am lucky to be alive.
Happy Birthday to me. Seventy? Bring it on.
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