When the media go in search of inspirational older women for their cover images and interviews, it does tend to be the same faces coming back on a regular basis. Mostly they are well-known for their long-standing places in the entertainment business.
But a recent survey shows that inspirational stories come from a far broader community. Alongside the well-known and well-rehearsed stories of the likes of Judi Dench, Mary Berry and Joanna Lumley, there are leading lights from politics, academia, campaigning, health, sport, and the Royal Family.
The poll was carried out amongst users of the website Look Fabulous Forever. The company says that the survey shows how much life is left for women past the age of 60, and that careers can still flourish past retirement age. While the site focuses on the over 50s woman, the company argues that these women provide inspiration for all ages.
It is very interesting to note that many of these women have had diverse careers. Some have achieved fame and then used that to drive campaigning on subjects that are close to their hearts. Dame Esther Rantzen is a great example – a TV presenter who has gone on to create and promote the Childline and Silverline charities. Others have built on a first career to take up a second, with Sue Barker as a good example of a sportsperson turned presenter.
Why is this important?
The fact that the poll has listed 60 living older women as role models suggest that those who want to appeal to the mature market should be looking further than the same faces and voices. And that while stars of stage and screen are more often in the public eye and therefore more recognisable, the list of inspiring women covers many walks of life.
Who are the inspiring women?
Featured in the top 60 list are (with many of those featured spanning several of my rather arbitrary categories):
- TV, film and radio: Dame Judi Dench – 86, Joanna Lumley OBE – 74, Dame Julie Walters – 70, Meryl Streep – 71, Dame Lesley Lawson (Twiggy) – 71, Sandi Toksvig – 62, Oprah Winfrey – 67, Alison Steadman OBE – 74, Angela Rippon CBE – 76, Dame Maggie Smith – 86, Dame Jenni Murray – 70, Baroness Floella Benjamin – 71, Dame Helen Mirren – 75, Lorraine Kelly CBE – 61, Anne Reid MBE – 85, Dame Sheila Hancock – 87
- Music: Dolly Parton – 75, Annie Lennox OBE – 66, Dame Shirley Bassey – 84, Carole King – 79, Tina Turner – 81
- Politics: Baroness Betty Boothroyd – 91, Caroline Lucas MP – 60, Angela Merkel – 66, Baroness Shirley Williams – 90, Theresa May MP – 64, Harriet Harman QC MP – 70, Baroness Helena Kennedy – 70
- Public life: Dame Cressida Dick – 60
- Health: Professor Wendy Savage – 85, Dr Jenny Harries OBE – 62, Edith Eger – 93, Jane Scullion
- Science: Dame Jane Goodall – 86, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell – 77
- Academia: Dame Mary Beard – 66, Germaine Greer – 82,
- Authors: Dame Hilary Mantel – 68, Dame Jacqueline Wilson – 75, Chi Chi Nwanoku OBE – 64, Margaret Atwood – 81
- Religion: Rose Hudson-Wilkin MBE – 60
- Horticulture: Carol Klein – 75, Bunny Guinness – 65
- Food: Prue Leith CBE – 80, Dame Mary Berry – 85, Delia Smith CBE – 79,
- Campaigner: Dame Esther Rantzen – 80, Baroness Doreen Lawrence – 71, Dame Joan Bakewell – 87
- Sport: Lady Mary Peters, Jayne Torvill OBE – 63, Billie Jean King – 77, Sue Barker OBE – 64, Sister Madonna Buder – 90
- Fashion: Zandra Rhodes CBE – 80, Dame Vivienne Westwood – 79
- Royalty: Queen Elizabeth II – 94, HRH Princess Anne – 70, Duchess of Cornwall – 73
In case you’re interested
I’ve just reviewed a few of the products from Look Fabulous Forever on the Whey They Get Older blog.