Actress Jane Seymour on the Effects of “Unseenism” and the #1 Way To Fight It: “Health Is Everything”

Updated: Apr. 19, 2024

At 73, Seymour pulls back the curtain on turning what was once Hollywood's most frowned-upon process—aging—into her greatest strength.

When fifth-graders are shopping for retinol products, you know you’re living in a society that puts a significant emphasis on youth and appearance. Historically many women have perceived a shift that happens over time in both our personal and professional lives when we may start to feel overlooked. Unheard. Unseen. That can hurt psychologically, but it can also be a health hazard.

Actress Jane Seymour knows how this feels firsthand. “Unseenism,” Seymour explains, is something that some older women, as well as many patients with chronic conditions, can experience. This can make an individual feel hesitant to raise their issues and questions with a healthcare provider, for fear that they’ll be ignored or dismissed. Seymour wants to change that.

From her role as a Bond girl in 1973’s Live and Let Die to her beloved starring role in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman to now co-starring with Lindsay Lohan in the new Netflix movie, Irish Wish—with awards and a Hollywood star along the way—Seymour has seen how aging can change how people view, speak and listen to you. That’s why, in a new partnership with global biopharmaceutical company Insmed, Seymour is raising awareness about unseenism.

In a conversation with The Healthy by Reader’s Digest, she shared her clever strategy to make sure she’s being heard at the doctor’s office, how she practices gratitude, and the simple wardrobe trick she uses to feel energetic when she needs a lift. 

The Healthy by Reader’s Digest: Jane, please talk to us about your own experiences with “unseenism.” The idea that this can be tied to health is a really important point.

Jane Seymour: I’ve noticed that when I went to the doctor, I was not treated probably in the same way as if I were a man. I also realized that I’m willing to—and not afraid to—stand up for myself and say, “Hey, pay attention to me. Please pay attention to what I’m doing.” I think a lot of women, especially people who have diseases and things: They’re not listened to, they’re not paid attention to in the proper way. I have actually spoken to doctors recently about it who have said, “You know what? In medical school now they are really [teaching] about listening to women, especially women over 50.” Insmed surveyed 2,000 people, and 62% of those women felt overlooked when they age. 

I think women in general … do have to stand up for themselves. As you age, maybe you don’t always remember exactly what the doctor told you, or you don’t remember what it is you want to ask the doctor. You have to self-advocate or have someone come with you. Or what I do is ask for permission to record it. That way I can’t get their, “Oh, you’re menopausal,” or, “Oh, you are older,” or “your memory” or “We told you that already.” 

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The Healthy: Are age or gender bias experiences you’ve had personally?

Jane Seymour: Well, inside of me, and I think inside of all of us, is a young woman. She’s a teenager, maybe one that was never allowed to get up and do whatever, or we have our spirits that are young and our bodies that sometimes tell us otherwise. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of people who, women especially, who just go, “OK, well I’m 50, I’m done,” and hide under a rock and just accept that they are unseen.

I really feel that I’m in this privileged position of being able, maybe through my Instagram or through public speaking or even the roles that I play, to say, “Hey, you’re not done yet. You’re not done being young. Take care of your body. Take the vitamins, do the exercise, keep your brain going, but get out there and communicate with other people.”

I had a very resilient mother who passed at the age of 92, having survived World War II for three and a half years in a camp in Indonesia. She always said to me that everyone has challenges in life. The natural instinct is you close off and don’t let anyone know you need help. But if you accept whatever your challenge is … and find a community to talk to one another about it, get your head around it, and then say, “OK, this is what I can do, and this is what I need to do and be positive about it.” 

And I think when you have a purpose in life, it’s about having a positive attitude. I personally will take care of my skin first thing in the morning. I will exercise, at least walk around. I will take a look at nature and just have a moment of gratitude whether I meditate or I just look out at the ocean or look at a bird flying by, whatever it is, I come from a place of gratitude to be here at all. And then I ask myself, “What can I do today to make a difference for myself and others?”  I find that if I have managed to move the dial even slightly just by listening to someone who’s having a tough time, creating, painting, designing—whatever it is that I know fills my spirit—I feel I’ve had a good day and I am inviting people, especially women over 50, to give themselves the opportunity to feel good about themselves in every possible way. 

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The Healthy: A great example of embracing that confidence and vibrance as you age is when you became the oldest woman to pose for Playboy at 67 years old in 2018. So many women need the reminder that you can still feel beautiful or sensual as you get older. What do you do to embrace that internal feeling of beauty? 

Jane Seymour: Well, I just don’t wear gray all the time. I will throw a splash of color into my life, it’s like a joke around here. My fans know it too, that when I feel I need to perk myself up, I will have something red on somewhere. Maybe it’s the sole of my shoe or a scarf or whatever it is. If I’m feeling down, a pop of any kind of color just livens my life up. That’s one thing that I do. I look at myself in the mirror and I just say, “OK, you’re here. You matter. What are you going to do to help other people? And how are you going to feel good about yourself?” Maybe you’ll take an extra minute to comb your hair or put some lipstick on or go outside and exercise, or like I said, a way to have some fun, find some people that you really have something in common with. 

When people read I was in Playboy it’s, “Oh my God, this is going to be something very salacious.” But I had more clothes on than anyone who just went to the swimming pool. I think the concept was that you can feel sensual. You can feel like a whole woman for your whole life. There is no reason to stop being a complete woman for as long as you want to be. And I think that’s really important. There’s no cutoff date. When I was growing up, I would look at my mother at 50 and just go, “She’s old.” I’m 73, and I don’t think of myself as old.

Take on some new venture, try something new. Learn an instrument. I mean, it’s never too late to do the things that a lot of people say, “Oh, well, I should have. I could have. I didn’t. I couldn’t because of the kids, I couldn’t because of whatever.” There are a lot of ways of moving the dial and just going, “You know what? I’m trying this. This is actually fun.” I mean, I started out with dancing. You put some music on in the morning, put it on your headphones when you’re walking, and rock out to the sixties or whatever it was that got you excited in the first place about life. I think that’s important. 

I do notice that I’ve lost a lot of friends to illness, and I do see a lot of my friends having to have this replacement, that replacement, this treatment, going into hospitals and visiting people. But you can lift people’s spirits wherever they are. I think that’s really what this is about, too. It’s about owning the right to be heard, to be seen, to be listened to, be attended to, and you’ve got to do it for yourself as well. 

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The Healthy: We love that! How about self-care? Is there a self-care routine or practice that you can’t skip? 

Jane Seymour: Absolutely. I know most people don’t wash their hair every day, but I do. So I wash and condition my hair. I exfoliate the skin all over my body, especially my face. I make sure to protect myself from the sun. I wear a hat so I don’t get too many UV rays and wear sunscreen. I want to take time to make myself look as good as I can—look good for me, not for anybody else. Obviously, I have to do it for my work as well, but it’s just minimal. It doesn’t take too much time. I definitely stretch and exercise. I will just even do some calisthenics and some isometrics. I’ve been known to work out in a tiny room in a hotel during COVID. If I could do it there, I can do it anywhere, wherever I am. 

I think listening to music and either going for a fast walk in nature if I can, or even just dancing, all of that boosts and empowers me, body, mind, and spirit. The other thing is that I eat really healthy food, and I grow it. I love to eat something I’ve grown. So I have chickens in the back and a garden. I have all kinds of vegetables and things. A lot of them are grown in pots. My kids are all doing the same thing now. There’s nothing like showing children and grandchildren that what you eat is who you are. And if you can grow it yourself, I think you value it even more. Health is everything. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.