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Why I refuse to let my age define me as I approach 70

Nothing about your age should deter you from living the life you want to, says Lyn Slater

Lyn in long floral dress
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
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As she approaches 70, Lyn Slater, AKA The Accidental Icon is living her best her life, having started her fashion blog in 2014, aged 61, with almost a million followers on social media.

Throughout her sixties, Lyn's devoted fans loved how she defied stereotypes, refused to become invisible and proved that all women can be relevant and take risks, no matter their age.

In her new book, How to Be Old, Lyn shares an inside look at the story of her sixties, a decade full of rebellion and reinvention…

Woman with grey hair
Lyn is set to turn 70

The year I turned 59, I couldn’t find anything to wear. Everything that hung in my closet or on racks in stores no longer inspired. This out-of-sorts feeling tells me I am ready for a new story to tell.

Something new to get dressed in. Clothes have always helped me tell stories about myself; who I am, who I wish to be. They could be chapters of a memoir. I look toward the end of a decade with excitement, eager to take stock of what I’ve achieved, and to the new decade ahead for possibility.

When I look back on each phase of my life, I remember the experiences I had, not what age I was when I had them. I don’t view each birthday as a lost year of youth, but as a new stage of opportunity.

Instead of thinking about all the things I’ll miss about the past, I focus on the things I can do in the moment that make my life exciting.

DISCOVER: Why I'm absolutely not 'dressing for my age' at 54 

For me, that means styling a new look, taking on new roles, having new experiences. Perhaps finding a new place to live or a new way of working. I go back to school to learn something new.

During my fifties, I completed a PhD and became a full-time professor. My daughter graduated from college, found her profession, and married. I took my first trip to Europe.

Woman smelling flowers in a garden in front of a shed
Lyn says she is so much more than her age

I had a hip replacement. I learned how to make jewellery and started to take classes in a fashion school. I lived in a loft in Williamsburg. My father died; my sister had three babies. My partner Calvin and I grew as a couple and learned the right way to have a fight.

We moved from Brooklyn to Queens. I stopped dyeing my hair and cut it short. After the hip replacement, I could move freely without pain for the first time in two years. I paid for graduate school for me, college and a wedding for my daughter. I saved $250 a month by no longer dyeing my fast- growing hair. This gave me a few more resources to invest in whatever new “wardrobe” I wanted to design.

READ: 'Put yourself top'! Lisa Snowdon on the joy of turning 50 

During this decade, from each of my experiences, I learned important life lessons and gained new skills. Taking classes in a fashion school and traveling to Europe for the first time in my life triggered an unrealised desire I did not know I had. It was still undefined, and yet I felt its urgency. It was a hand on my back, pushing me out the door.

Many people, no matter what age they are, search for meaning as a new decade approaches. So many people kept asking me how I felt about turning 60 when at 59, my age was the last thing on my mind. I quickly discovered that the sixties is a tough decade. Truly, I did not think of myself as old until everyone started telling me I was. These are the things no one prepared me for.

Woman in a black suit
Lyn learned important life lessons and gained new skills in her sixties

AARP relentlessly sends you membership applications. You receive frequent reminders that you must sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday, or else you’ll get a fine. Youcan collect Social Security. People ask when you plan to retire. You are eligible for senior discounts on trains, at movie theatres, museums.

They ask if you want to take advantage of these, or it’s assumed that you do because of the colour of your hair. Parents begin to pass away if they haven’t already. People jump up to give you a seat on the subway. You are told you look good... for your age. Cemeteries send you flyers in the mail, telling you it’s time to buy a plot. During a pandemic, you are told you are in the group most likely to die.

READ: I went on my first solo holiday at 69 – here's what happened 

Why would I allow my age, only just a number after all, to define who I am or determine how I live my life? Why does everyone feel compelled to keep reminding me of it?

Especially because I, like everyone else, am so much more than my age. I, like everyone else, am aging uniquely, so I don’t understand why suddenly the edges of my individuality are being sanded down so I can be lumped in with everyone else.

woman in pink coat
Lyn had an exciting decade in her sixies

How old I am is hands down the most boring fact about me. I became determined at 59 not to let age define me, or get in my way. It was not clear to me yet what I would do, but I was certain that because of my inherently rebellious nature I would find a way, as I always have, to challenge expectations set by others. Expectations that try to dictate who I could be or what I could do. All the reminders that I was getting old only served to provoke me.

They fuelled my desire to make this decade one where I will resist stereotypes that dictate what I should look like or how I should live life when I am old. I will use my creativity to write an alternative story, a story born of gleeful defiance of the idea that it is time for me to gracefully bow out and disappear.

INSPIRATION: I went on my first wellness retreat at 69 – here's what happened

So here I am again, now sixty- nine, soon to be seventy. Another decade has passed. I’ve moved from the city, bought a house with my partner; a deepening of our commitment to each other and our family. I became a grandmother at the beginning of the decade and again at the end.

I decided what kind of grandmother I wanted to be. I came to accept my identity as a writer. I retired from teaching after twenty years. I continue to work as a social work consultant. I had cataract surgery and can see better than I have in years. I had Covid, yet gratefully continue to survive the pandemic.

Woman in a black suit
Lyn learned important life lessons and gained new skills in her sixties

My mother died. My sister’s babies are in college. I’ve been to Shanghai, Tokyo, Madrid, Paris, Lisbon, Reykjavik, Amsterdam, Cologne, Basel, and London— some of those cities more than once.

International fashion campaigns have featured me, as has the fashion press. I have more than half a million followers on Instagram. There are commercials, music videos, Today Show appearances…

READ: I changed my entire life at 54 – here's what happened 

During this past decade of my life, I’ve had the most incredible adventure. It’s so far outside my expectations for what my sixties would bring that even I don’t fully understand how it all happened.

During this last decade, a professor of social work, a grandmother with grey hair and wrinkles, became a fashion star. Somehow an ordinary woman like me found herself living an extraordinary older life as my alterego, known as Accidental Icon.

Woman posing in black outside Hermes© Calvin Lom
Lyn says growing older is a privilege

Ironically, during the years when society assumed I would become invisible as an older woman, I was more visible than at any other time of my life. Infinitely more visible than when I was young.

As I review each year and reflect on my experiences, I hope to learn the whys and hows of what I did or didn’t do to make this adventure happen. I invite you to come along with me. I discover important lessons about how to be old.

woman kicking autumn leaves © Calvin Lom
Nothing should deter us from living our life, says Lyn

I learn the importance of remaining true to yourself and your values. I learn how powerful stereotypes about age are.

I learn that if you are not attentive, they can derail you despite how badass you think you are. I learn how to not let my age define me even when others want it to.

I understand it’s a choice each day to not let being older get in the way of living the life I want to live. Ending one decade and beginning another, no matter how old we are, implies the question “What now?”

Societal and familial expectations and our own unique circumstances complicate our response to this question. I am aware that, as a white, educated, cis, healthy woman with financial security, my privilege has contributed to what I could do at 60 and how I could do it.

woman sitting backwards on a chair© Calvin Lom
Lyn is learning how to be old

It informs what I can do now. Growing older is also a privilege, one not enjoyed by all. Yet before it happens to us, we see being old as something to avoid at all costs. The dictionary definition of the word old is “having lived a long time.” I ask in all sincerity: Would you really prefer the alternative to living a long time? As I turn seventy this year, I will gratefully add “old” to my list of privileges and recognise it as such.

READ: What a 51-year-old PT wants you to know about exercise in menopause 

There is one aspect of getting older that is under our control: how we choose to think about our age. What we think about getting or being old informs the way we feel about ourselves as people who are and will age. It impacts our health. It influences how we might respond to the challenges and opportunities older life poses. Nothing about your age, regardless of whether you are turning 30 or 100, should deter you from living the life you want to, regardless of what others say or society says you should or can do.

How To Be Old book cover

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