DEMI’S THE ROLE MODEL WE GRANNIES NEED
Jane Gordon, 67, is a journalist and author. She lives in Oxfordshire with her dog, Zorro, and cat, Catty. She is mother to Bryony 42, Naomi, 40, and Rufus, 30 — and grandmother to Edie, nine.
When my elder daughter announced her pregnancy ten years ago, I was shocked by the reaction of some of my friends. Then in my late 50s, I received messages and a handful of greeting cards that seemed to regard my becoming a grandparent as confirmation that I had reached ‘old age’. ‘Not long now!’ one friend wrote inside a card that pictured a wizened old woman doubled up over a Zimmer frame.
I knew this was a joke — but as someone who prides themselves on their youthful mindset, I didn’t appreciate it. But of course on the happy day of my granddaughter’s birth, I didn’t suddenly and dramatically change into an old fossil. And neither have I done so almost ten years later, at the age of 67. Yet ever since, I have had to fight this strange societal directive that, as a grandmother, I should behave in a way that is ‘seemly’.
Because although, thank goodness, my daughters’ generation has rejected that outmoded feminine ideal of mothers as homemakers and carers above all else, we grannies are still under pressure to tone down our behaviour and stay in the kitchen.
Meet the Glammies: (L-R) Jane Gordon, 67, is and Oxfordshire-based journalist, Jilly Johnson, 69, is a former model and actress, and Debbie Arnold, 67, has starred in EastEnders, Coronation Street and many other hit TV shows
Thankfully times are changing. Many of today’s new breed of grannies are only just getting started, with ambitions still to fulfil —and they’ve never looked better.
Demi Moore, whose oldest daughter Rumer is expecting her first child, recently hailed this seismic shift with an Instagram post captioned: ‘Entering my hot, kooky, deranged grandma era.’
This is the woman who made motherhood sexy when she posed, naked and pregnant, on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991. Now perhaps she’ll do the same for grandmotherhood.
At 60, she has a figure women half her age would envy and — like so many women of her generation — she refuses to be pigeon-holed or take the back seat into old age.
After all, women are living longer, healthier lives and, whether society likes it or not, we still have boundless energy for fun, sex and adventure. Last year, I signed up to online dating for the first time in my life.
Though nothing concrete has come of it so far, I have had fun. And whereas in the past, the idea that grannies could still enjoy flirtation was deemed distasteful, my contemporaries are tearing up the rules.
We are anything but ‘retiring’. We are more likely than not to be still working, we eat healthily, we exercise, we love fashion and do our best to ensure that we remain young and relevant long after we are deemed to be ‘old’.
I’m not a slave to looking young and don’t much fancy plastic surgery. I am, though, like most women, anxious to stay looking good and feeling healthy for as long as I can.
I walk four miles a day, love shopping at Zara, and try to keep my brain fresh with new projects. And yet despite this being the norm for me and my friends, we still encounter ageism — no longer called ‘darling’, I am now referred to in shops as ‘dear’, while my kids love nothing more than to childrensplain the ways of the world to me.
So I am grateful for Demi’s outspokenness. I am not encouraging her to reprise her Vanity Fair cover because posing nude as a granny — an offer from another publication I turned down only last year, for the record — is going too far the other way and mortifying for the grandchild.
But she offered a glimpse of exactly how she intends to move forward into grandmotherhood by posing — alongside her ex-husband Bruce Willis — looking amazing in a pair of dungarees. No sign of white hair (hers is still long, dark and lustrous) and the only indication of advancing age her high-fashion, 60s-hippy glasses.
Demi Moore, whose oldest daughter Rumer is expecting her first child, recently hailed this seismic shift with an Instagram post captioned: ‘Entering my hot, kooky, deranged grandma era’
Confirming that she is still hot, if a little wacky, and determined to do her own thing (even if it might look slightly unhinged).
And though her version of hot may involve surgical enhancement, something she has always denied, I make no judgment. She is just the role model we grannies need to overthrow the outmoded image of the big-knickered ‘Nan’.
Because, in truth, my generation of grannies are anything but dull, dutiful and sexless.
From the fabulous Carole Middleton (voted the most glamorous grandmother in 2013) through force of nature Goldie Hawn, 77, to the outrageous Sharon Osbourne, 70, the world is full of inspiring women who are fighting against the repressive stereotype of ‘gran’.
The more fun we have as grannies, the more fun our grandchildren will have and, after all, that remains the most vital role of a granny; to enhance and hopefully enchant the lives of our grandbabies.
Indeed, I regard being a ‘kooky, unhinged grandma’ as one of the most important ways in which I can help my granddaughter Edie to grow up to become a confident, fulfilled woman.
Just last month I spent a glorious week as her full-time, live-in carer while her parents holidayed in the Maldives and, for me, those days in London felt like the most wonderful five-star holiday. We went clothes shopping together, we sang and danced to pop star Olivia Rodrigo and every evening, after her bath, we had our ‘happy hour’ when we would eat olives and crisps (and I had a glass of red wine).
And how we talked; about crushes on boys, about her love of football and her hopes and fears for the future. And, no, we didn’t bake cookies and I didn’t teach her to knit or sew but I made her laugh and listened to everything she said.
When she — or one of my great-nieces or nephews — come to stay in my country cottage it is even more fun because, as one great-niece, now 12, once said ‘the only rule is no rules and you can have cake for breakfast’.
The greatest joy of grandparenting is, I think, in breaking the rules that parents are bound to impose. Because while it is the serious business of parents to make sure that their children eat healthy food, do their homework and tidy their rooms, these things are not the responsibility of a grandparent.
Our responsibility — as Demi is set to find out — is to be as unconventional as possible by helping them to question (but not necessarily break) the rules society and their parents impose on them.
This might not always meet with the approval of our adult children who have all the hard work to do, but it will create an indelible bond with our grandchildren that will, hopefully, last their lifetime, long after ours has ended.
I SIMPLY DON’T DATE MEN MY OWN AGE
Debbie Arnold, 67, has starred in EastEnders, Coronation Street and many other hit TV shows. Married twice (to actors John Challis and David Janson), she is currently single and has two daughters from her second marriage, Ciara, 35, and Talia, 29. She has three grandsons: Archie, eight, Albie, four, and Ossian, six months.
Traditionally, grandmothers aren’t meant to have sex, are they? But at 67, I feel sexier now than I did 20 years ago. In my experience, you get so much more confident as you age.
While I used to go for men who were older than me — my first husband, actor John Challis, was 16 years my senior — now I simply don’t date men my own age.
My range is between 40 and 60, and while I’ve technically been single since 2010, I do have a few special men in my life. There’s inevitably one who makes me laugh —another is a great lover I can’t usually be bothered to talk to. Oh and of course, there’s the fabulous cook.
Debbie Arnold, 67, has starred in EastEnders, Coronation Street and many other hit TV shows. She is currently single and has two daughters from her second marriage, Ciara, 35, and Talia, 29. She has three grandsons: Archie, eight, Albie, four, and Ossian, six months.
Such is life as a so-called ‘hot grandma’. Like Demi Moore, I railed against the idea that I should suddenly become a different person when I became a grandmother.
At the time, a friend remarked ‘You’re too glamorous to be a grandma, you should be a Glam-ma’… and it stuck.
My three grandsons call me Glammy, never Granny. Albie will call out, ‘Here comes Glam in her Glammobile’, when he sees me coming up the drive.
To them, I’m fun, crazy Glammy who’s an actress. And it’s good for them to view me like that, it’s all part of changing the outmoded stereotypes of the frail old nan.
Women like Goldie Hawn (who has seven grandchildren) and Jane Fonda (who has two) inspire me, still working and looking incredible. Comeback queen Jennifer Coolidge too (although, at 61, she’s not a grandmother) — at the moment winning awards for her role in hit series, White Lotus — shows women can be just as relevant, ambitious and successful in their 60s.
Of course, the stars work hard to maintain a youthful appearance… and thank God the clever tweakments many rely on are available to the rest of us too.
I’ve had my breasts reupholstered and happily have every treatment going, from fillers to Botox. Why not? I never expected to look like this at my age and I feel a bit of pressure to keep it all going. But it’s not about looking young, rather about looking the best you can.
I never find it tiring or unnatural to stay fit and looking good — that’s something I’ve always done, so it would be strange if I stopped now. Do I exercise? Yes, I walk my four dogs and raise and lower the odd glass of wine!
Luckily, I have a squad of fellow Glammies. What sets us apart is we’re all still working — I don’t know a single woman my age who isn’t. I have my own YouTube show called Wonderbirds with actresses Dee Anderson, Sherrie Hewson and Harriet Thorpe — all of us in our 60s — and we record three times a week. I also have an online beauty show with Linda Lusardi, 64, offering advice to women over 40. And I’m currently starring in We’ll Always Have Paris at the Mill in Sonning, playing a divorced woman with umpteen grandchildren who’s off to Turkey to be nipped and tucked. The character I play on stage says: ‘When you reach the age of no return, the menopause is women’s liberation.’ I completely agree. I’m on HRT and feel good on it.
I come from a long line of strong grannies. My own was wonderfully glamorous and an incredible woman — she was still gambling in casinos the year before she died at 84. She was also sharp as a tack. As a young woman, she ran her father’s business in the 1930s and 1940s, quite something for a girl in those days.
My own mum adored my daughters, Ciara and Talia, but she loathed the idea of being only a ‘grandmother’. She insisted my girls call her by her first name and if anyone asked who they were while out, she’d say they were her children, never her grandkids.
Of course, back then the granny label really did pigeonhole you… it was something to dread.
I’m proud to be part of the generation changing all that.
I WON’T RULE OUT POSING NAKED AT 70
Jilly Johnson, 69, is a former model, actress and writer with one daughter, Lucy, 47, and three grandchildren — Gracie, 19, Ted, 17, and Gabe, 16. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, Ashley, 77, chairman of a textile group.
Jilly Johnson, 69, is a former model, actress and writer with one daughter, Lucy, 47, and three grandchildren
We all know the stereotype of the elderly grandma, patting her blue rinse while knitting quietly in a corner. Well, I feel a million miles away from that woman. Yes, I have recently taken up knitting… but in my case, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood put me on to the joys of it when I sat next to him on a flight.
The very concept of being a grandmother now is drastically different to how things were in my youth. In the old days, you got to a certain age, retired and got put out to grass. But like Demi Moore, I want to be a hot grandma. Do I still feel as frisky as I did in my 30s and 40s? Abso-bloody-lutely!
I have three biological grandchildren and, between us, my husband and I share 14 of them, aged between seven and 22.
The idea of being a grandmother excited me immediately — I was only 50 but I couldn’t wait for those baby cuddles — yet I knew I wanted to break boundaries. I wanted to be the naughty grandma, the one you’d have secrets with.
My daughter, Lucy, would leave them with me when they were small and we’d do crazy things like have ice cream for breakfast or go swimming in our pyjamas. I longed to break the rules. I was very rebellious as a teenager, so it’s only natural I am a rebellious granny too.
I was non-conformist as a mother, too — as a model, I never knew where I might be flying out to next so there was no schedule or routine for Lucy growing up. It’s meant she is brilliantly adaptable and I hope my grandchildren won’t be set in their ways either. I hope they’ll be free spirits, like me.
Jilly has three biological grandchildren and, between us, she and her husband share 14 of them, aged between seven and 22
Growing up, my own grandmother was extremely traditional. Every Sunday, I’d wear my best dress to visit her and we’d eat chocolate cake while I told her about school. She was lovely but it was rather formal.
She would have been aghast if made to join in with some of the activities I do with my grandkids. Recently, we went zip-lining high up in the trees at Go Ape. I was fit enough to enjoy it, as I do yoga and walk the dogs every day.
I’d quite like to wing-walk on a plane next.
My grandchildren call me Bubbie Bonkers, but I’m not mad, just very broad-minded and far more worldly than grans used to be.
The grandchildren know about my past in glamour modelling with very few clothes on and think it’s hilarious.
As a family, we’re very open, you see. We’ve never spoken about sex, but I’d be more than happy to, if they asked.
I just think everyone has to be themselves.
In terms of how I feel, very little has changed. I dress the same way I always have — I love drainpipe jeans and mini skirts and can’t bear those bossy fashion rules about not wearing things over a certain age.
But I wear high heels less. I used to live and die in skyscraper shoes, but now they only come out on special occasions, to go from car to bar.
I’m pleased I’ve kept my figure, although there’s not much I can do about my sagging skin — that annoys me sometimes.
I’m 69 now and for my 70th birthday later this year, I’ll have to plan something extraordinary.
Would I pose nude again to celebrate? Never say never. It would horrify my grandchildren… and that makes me chuckle.