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© Rosie Collins: ‘Twinkling in an Alice Temperley dress for Marie Claire in China’

After her husband Jim died in 1997, Daphne Selfe went back to work as a model at the age of 70.

Now 87, she has worked continuously for nearly 20 years and modelled for labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Red or Dead and TK Maxx.

Here she tells Nick Smurthwaite how going back to work has helped her to stay young.

A lot of 87-year-olds feel pleased to be able to walk to the shops and back. You, on the other hand, still work as a photographic model all over the world. What’s your secret?

A lot depends on your genes. My mother had good genes and lived until she was 95. I’ve always had lots of energy.

As a child I rode horses and bicycles and danced. I go to bed early and I sleep well. I know my limits.

Do you have a particular exercise regime?

Yes, I do a bit of everything – yoga, ballet, pilates, exercise bike – for at least 20 minutes every morning, longer if I don’t have to go out.

What about your diet? Do you take vitamins?

I’ve always eaten sensibly and in moderation. I don’t buy a lot of processed food, I cook a lot from fresh ingredients and vegetables. I like the odd cake.

A little of what you fancy does you good. I take vitamins for osteoporosis, fish oil, and vitamins to keep my hair healthy.

Have you enjoyed modelling more second time around?

Yes definitely. I’m treated much better now, more pampered, and I never went abroad in the old days. Wearing gorgeous clothes, going to exotic places…what’s not to like?

How are today’s young models treated?

There seems to be a lot of pressure on them to be thin, which I don’t like. If you eat sensibly you don’t get fat, but there are umpteen cafes and coffee shops on every high street now, so there is a lot more temptation than there used to be.

Why do models on the catwalk always look depressed?

I’ve no idea, unless it’s so they don’t detract from the clothes. I always try to look pleasant, even if I’m not smiling. Nobody has ever told me to look glum.

Did your family mind you going back to modelling at 70?

Well I didn’t see it as going back to work, I saw it as having some fun. I’d worked on and off as a film and TV extra, even when I had a young family, so the children were used to me going out to work. In any case, they’ve all got their own lives now.

Has returning to work helped to keep you young?

Oh yes, having something absorbing to do is terribly important. Even if it’s not work, you should keep curious and interested in everything.

I’m always going to the theatre or the cinema, or going to look at a lovely garden, or meeting friends. Get out as much as you can, and stay interested in what’s going on round you. I’ve never thought much about getting old, it just happens.

You can’t do anything about it. You might as well enjoy yourself!

Did you enjoy writing your autobiography?

I’d always kept diaries which was a great help in jogging my memory and getting things in the right order. I thought it would be a nice thing to do for my children and grandchildren. I was terribly pleased with it, and the typeface is nice and big!

What kind of clothes do you wear to relax in?

I wear trousers at home but not when I’m out. I’ve never liked short skirts, I prefer to wear longer skirts and dresses. I love dressing up.

Some older people seem to lose their enthusiasm for dressing up or making themselves look nice, which is a shame.

Do you ever think about retiring from modelling?

I think it’ll happen when it happens. I’ll carry on working if I can. Make the most of every minute! If wearing clothes and prancing about in funny outfits amuses people, I’ll keep on doing it.

Daphne’s book, The Way We Wore is published by Pan Macmillan at £16.99.

Top photo: © Rosie Collins: ‘Twinkling in an Alice Temperley dress for Marie Claire in China’
Second photo: Author's own: 'One for the portfolio - I made the suit'

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174