Christie Brinkley on How She Found Love at 62 – and Bonded over Age – with 'Silent Cowboy' John Mellencamp

Brinkley tells PEOPLE: "When it comes to relationships, there is something nice about just being the same age"

Photo: Ari Michelson

Opposites attract. At least that’s Christie Brinkley‘s romance philosophy.

When Brinkley first met her boyfriend, singer John Mellencamp, 64, last year, “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re really opposites. He’s kind of a throwback from another time, like a silent cowboy,’ ” she recalls. “But then we talked and realized that we do have a lot of shared interests.”

The couple bonded over their kids (Brinkley has three; Mellencamp has five, plus six grandkids) as well as their age.

“I know guys that go out with girls that are so, so young. They’ll throw some reference out, and they’re like, ‘What’s that?’ ” Brinkley says in the new issue of PEOPLE.

“When it comes to relationships, there is something nice about just being the same age.”

She’s certainly never had a problem with hers. Now 62, and still modeling, the supermodel who first shot to fame as a cover girl in the 70s has parlayed her ageless all-American sex appeal into a lifestyle empire worth an estimated $80 million.

Brinkley markets Total Gym and Christie Brinkley Authentic Skincare via infomercials, has a lucrative line of hair extensions and shared her beauty secrets in her book Timeless Beauty last fall. Next up, Brinkley has a new line of organic prosecco, Bellissima, launching this summer.

“It is kind of a special thing to be 62 and have so many opportunities,” she says, sitting down with PEOPLE at her estate in Bridgehampton, New York, last month. “I never take that for granted, not for a second.”

For more from Christie Brinkley, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Brinkley is the first to recognize her good fortune after surviving what she calls “a very tough decade,” during which she lost both her parents and went through a vicious divorce and custody battle with her fourth husband, Peter Cook.

“There’s nothing harder than seeing your loved ones suffer,” says Brinkley, whose mother, Marjorie, died of a heart attack following a stroke in 2012, just weeks after her husband, Donald, passed away following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. “And to go through a divorce – and a very public one – at the same time? It was a tough time; there’s no two ways about it.”

Now, when it comes to her own romantic future, Brinkley is coy.

Despite reports that she and Mellencamp may wed after dating for the past year, “you never really know what’s going to happen,” she says. “John and I are two people that have very full lives. We’re just trying to enjoy each other when we can see each other and try not to put too much [pressure] on it.”

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