Making of a bikini queen

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS had a field day on Friday running a photograph of Dame Helen Mirren in a bikini posing with her husband on the rocks near her holiday home in Italy.

Everyone seemed rather amazed that she was looking so good just days short of her 63rd birthday - yet there are flocks of women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who still look sexy and absolutely wonderful whether in or out of a swimsuit.

I certainly applaud Dame Helen for wearing a bikini on which she obviously thought was an extremely secluded stretch of beach.

Unfortunately today, with the excessive emphasis that is placed by society on youth, youth, youth, many women over 40 are beginning to feel unsexy - and with that often comes a tremendous feeling of insecurity.

But the truth is there are plenty of role models for them to aspire to: women like Dame Helen are by no means in the minority for looking sexy and stunning.

Look at Sophia Loren, Susan Sarandon, Ursula Andress, Stephanie Powers, Raquel Welch, Barbara Eden, Joanna Lumley, Linda Grey. The list is endless - and those are just the actresses.

There are many others in their 60s, 70s and 80s who do not live in the limelight but who all look absolutely stunning.

They all have one thing in common, however: they have taken care of themselves all their lives - and by this I mean eating a reasonably healthy diet, exercising moderately, and not allowing themselves to become overweight. Weight on a person is one of the most ageing and unhealthy things that can happen.

For women in the UK, the current life expectancy of 85 can actually be translated into a much longer life than that if she continues her simple basic maintenance - and, of course, doesn't get ill.

Sadly, many of today's illnesses stem from being overweight. Diabetes, kidney and liver problems, cancer, heart disease, emphysema and osteoporosis are often caused by the body having to lug around too much extra avoirdupois.

Getting older should be just that: getting older, but not becoming old, and therefore not losing one's sex appeal.

The truth is that women, on the whole, age better and look sexier than the opposite sex - and men often find this hard to accept. I'm sure that the gals from 'Sex And The City' will still look sexy at 60 and over.

This idea that women of a certain age should not, or can not, be sexy is quite ridiculous. It's also a very British state of mind. In France, they revere and respect older women; as they do in most Latin countries, where they consider older women to be delightful and with tons of sexual allure.

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