As the founder of AlternativeAgeing.Net, Suzi Grant has spent the last year overcoming stereotypes and proving that life doesn't end after retirement...
‘I wish people realised that you don’t have to turn 60 and follow a certain path. You can develop your own style, you can be eccentric, you can be anything you want – becoming a little old grey-haired lady in loafers isn’t obligatory at all.
That said, it’s hard. I hit my late forties and became invisible. Men don’t look at you – not that that matters – and I’d find myself standing in a shop for ages, watching the assistant make a fuss over a girl who’d just walked in, just because she was young.
That’s why I decided I was going to force people to pay attention. I ditched the black uniform that everyone wears in London, and began dying my hair bright red; buying colourful clothes. Now, every time I go for dinner in London, I’m like, ‘Oh God, everybody’s in black again‘ – and I get compliments wherever I go. In New York, Sydney, Rome – people stop me and tell me they love what I’m wearing.
I retired when I was 60 – I was lucky enough to inherit some money and be financially independent. I literally did nothing for the first two years except for work on the house I’d just bought. But I remember a friend saying to me that nobody retires properly for more than a couple of years, because they just get too bored. And she was completely right. I’d just started getting itchy feet when my goddaughter showed me the Advanced Style Instagram feed – all of these incredible ladies wearing incredible clothes. When my godson suggested that I start a blog too, I thought, ‘why not’. And I’ve gained over 7,000 followers in the last year.
You shouldn’t have less opportunities because of your age. Some of my friends were old when they were 26 – and some of them are in their 90s, and still behave like teenagers. It’s all in your attitude. If you go through life thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll never make it to 80,’ then I hate to tell you, but you probably won’t. Sure, I do have to pace myself more – I know a 97-year-old yoga teacher who wears high heels all day and dances for two hours every morning, and I certainly couldn’t do that – but there’s not much I’m incapable of. Except for walking down hills. They make my knees hurt.
A lot of ageism is misogyny in disguise, and that’s what makes me really angry. Just look at all the newspapers – most of them are run by bald, middle-aged men with great big pot bellies, and yet they have the audacity to run stories in their papers showing women at Helen Mirren’s age with a bit of cellulite. It’s so pathetic. And it’s the same with TV – there aren’t many craggy, older women on screen, are there? But there are loads of craggy, older men.
Things will change, as long as we continue helping women climb the career ladder. I went to see the film Suffragette, and I cannot believe that there’s still not equal pay for women. I didn’t realise that was the case until I heard it on Radio 4, and I just stood up in the kitchen going, ‘I’m sorry, what?’. It’s disgusting. But things will change and hopefully the men will get better. And when women are in power, they will stay in power.’