You’re Only As Old As You Feel

You’re Only As Old As You Feel

It’s a sad fact of life that elderly people are often stereotyped as being unattractive, boring, lonely and ‘past it’. But that negative and misguided perception was challenged recently when an 85-year old pensioner, living in a care home in Surrey, was ‘spotted’ by a top fashion photographer – and it was revealed that she had been a catwalk and print model for Yves Saint Laurent.

Lesley MacLennan, now 85, made her name in her twenties in Paris, but over sixty years later she is now in a care home and is rarely asked about her modelling career. That all changed when Vogue photographer, James Muller, visiting another resident, was struck by Lesley’s inherent beauty and her ‘striking hands’. Lesley, who suffers from dementia, told him all about her career and he was inspired to create a photoshoot at the care home itself.

James has said that he hopes the beautiful photos will be a challenge to ageism: ‘Age to me is just a number,’ he said.  ‘During our shoot, Lesley was ‘that’ model again. Age made no difference. I’m sure she has worked with many a top photographer so for me to get the opportunity at her age is simply incredible. ‘I think there aren’t enough older models out there in the media. In many ways, social media etc. is telling us that it’s wrong to age, but it’s such a natural thing. ‘There is so much beauty in ageing too – we’ve just been taught to look at it the wrong way.

And if the catwalk has always appealed to you, it seems it’s never too late to start! “Less of the ‘old’ please, I’m still a teenager inside!” says Daphne Selfe, who claims to be the world’s oldest professional fashion model. Born in 1928, she has been modelling since 1949 and now in her nineties, she says: “I am busier than ever and loving life – campaigns all over the world keep coming!” Her ambition is to inspire people of all ages and stages of life, to embrace new opportunities – and says she believes “life just gets better and better!”

Many people fall into the trap of perceiving care home residents as faceless old people – but we should never forget that the elderly have had wonderfully rich, productive and interesting lives as doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, scientists, parents, actors – even models! And just like everyone else, many of them go on to enjoy a wonderful – and interesting life in a care home!

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