Colleen smiles at the camera with grass and trees behind her

Colleen's story

Colleen, 66, from West London, takes a very positive view on ageing, feeling that it’s a privilege to get older. Always a keen follower of fashion, Colleen tells us how she has loved becoming a model and supporting artist in film, TV and digital in her late 50s, and how she is thriving in this new chapter in her life.

“As you get older, you get bolder. Don’t worry about what people think, wear what you like, look how you want to look. Just do it and be happy.”

“John Lewis was a wonderful place to work, and I loved working with fashion. It was great to see people of all ages and encouraging them to experiment, dress up and feel good about themselves. When I was younger, I always thought that when I get to a mature age, why hide away? You can look wonderful at any age.

“After 32 years at the department store, in 2017, I decided to make a change. I don’t say ‘retired’, because for me, that means what? Retiring to bed? To the sofa? People have a preconceived idea that if you’re retired, you’re inactive, inflexible, unhealthy...and that’s not me. Instead, I describe it as entering a new chapter!”

Colleen was intrigued about working as a supporting artist in film, TV and digital after hearing about it from a former colleague and decided to contact some agencies when she was 59, just before she left John Lewis. She now works around three times a month, when the jobs suit her.

“I wanted to do something after finishing full time work, and being a supporting artist is perfect. I love talking to different people and hearing their stories, and I get to work in all kinds of locations and see what goes on in the industry, which is fascinating.

“I’ve appeared in films such as Mission Impossible and Star Wars, as well as TV programmes such as The Bodyguard and The Crown, and it’s great fun. It keeps my mind occupied and I’m always learning different things, which I think is important to ageing well.

“I want to enjoy this new chapter in my life, not have any stress, and this is a hobby and job that I love!”

Through the supporting artist work Colleen also explored becoming a model.

“I always wanted to be a model, but I’m not very tall so it didn't seem an avenue open to me when I was younger. But a few years ago, I was inspired by older models on social media to approach some agencies. A couple were looking for a more diverse range of models, which has led to some fun work, like modelling on ITV’s This Morning. I love being dressed up and wearing heels and bright colours, so it’s been brilliant.”

“I think that now we’re seeing greater diversity in models and in fashion, with more mature men and women looking great and more glamourous. There is still a long way to go, but it is getting better. In adverts, if there were any older people, they were often with their grandchildren and looking quite dowdy, but that has changed.

“For me, it was massive for Vogue to start reflecting older age groups. It’s so important to represent older people as having as much diversity as any other age group – we're not all the same! Women like Iris Apfel are an inspiration.

“I haven’t found a lot of barriers to modelling later in life. Age really is just a number, and you look the way you do. I do find it annoying when people say I look young for my age. Why? What do you think that I should look like?”

“I really want to be part of the campaign against ageism. There’s still a perception of older people being slow, unable to get about and invisible in drab colours. It’s complete nonsense and I love challenging these stereotypes.

“When I go to the gym, there are people of all ages working out there. Older men and women are lifting heavy weights. Mature people can do these things. We need to get rid of the clichéd nonsense that gyms, fitness and sports and workout clothing are only for younger people. The sports industry has a critical role to play here in showing age diversity and they need to step up to the plate.

“My husband, who is 62, and I are both very active. We go to the gym together up to four times a week and walk at least three miles a day. I feel as active now as I did before. There’s a few more aches and pains to overcome, but I’m very lucky, it’s a privilege to get old and have the chance to reflect on your maturity. I think it’s about looking after your mind, body and soul.

"It’s also about positive thoughts. I don't care about my age, we’re all ageing. As mature women, we should look to people like Prue Leith, Mary Berry – look how active they are!

"For me, as you get older, you get bolder! Don't worry about what people think, wear what you like. Just do it and be happy.”