Adventurous Seniors Prove Age is Just a Number

age is just a number

“Age is just a number!” How often have you heard that? Maybe on some days, you feel invincible, ready to conquer the world, and the years on the calendar don’t matter one bit. But on other days, you’re feeling the aches and pains earned during every second of your years, and well… age feels like quite a big number on those days, thank you very much.

The great news is that when it comes to doing amazing things, your age doesn’t matter. And in some cases, the wisdom and experience that comes with age can even be a significant advantage. Your adventure might include climbing a mountain (and if you do, please wear a medical alert watch with built-in pedometer and GPS). Or it might include discovering something that can benefit mankind. Or it might simply involve doing something good for yourself and creating an achievement you never dreamed you would reach.

Let’s take a look at some inspirational people who were just getting started at 65.

Everyone’s Favorite Colonel

Harlan David Sanders struggled through much of his life, chasing a paycheck in a variety of jobs, from working as an insurance salesman to farming to piloting a steamboat. He dreamed of having his own business, so he opened a gas station that also served his specialty – chicken. He developed a unique pressure frying method and a delectable recipe complete with 11 herbs and spices. It was such a hit that he opened a restaurant. Shortly thereafter, Interstate 75 came into the picture, pulling traffic away from his little Kentucky town and forcing him to get even more creative – and he did, by creating a franchise business. You might be familiar with it – it’s called Kentucky Fried Chicken. Colonel Sanders started KFC at the seasoned age of 65.

An Iconic Painter

Anna Mary Robertson Moses spent her life working with needle and thread, creating gorgeous embroidery. But then arthritis set in, and suddenly what she had done for her livelihood became too difficult and painful to continue. But her creativity ran deep, which is why she picked up a paintbrush and began creating paintings in the tradition of American primitive art. Three years later, her work was being shown in galleries and she was the talk of the art world. In the end, she created over 3,600 paintings. You might know her as Grandma Moses. She was 75 years old when she picked up that paintbrush, and was still painting until right before her death at the age of 101.

Where’s the Beef?

A manicurist for most of her life, Clara Peller was a single mother of two children. In the early 80s, she was hired to work as a manicurist for an ad filmed in a barbershop. Enthralled by her unique voice and her spirit, the director asked if she might like to change careers and become an actress. In 1984, she almost instantly became a household name with her signature line in a Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” That slogan is still uttered quite often today, but even back then, it was everywhere – and even served as the signature slogan for the 1984 presidential run by Walter Mondale against Ronald Reagan[1]. As for Peller, the memorable commercial that sparked it all was filmed when she was 81 years old.

The Invisible Wall

You might be familiar with this popular novel, the tale of a rough childhood in England. It was written by Harry Bernstein, a man who had been writing the occasional short story and other works throughout his life but hadn’t pursued novels. What prompted him to write the novel? It was a cure for the loneliness and depression he suffered after losing his wife of 67 years. As he told the New York Times in 2007, “If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book. It just could not have been done even when I was 10 years younger. I wasn't ready. God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.” Harry Bernstein wrote his iconic novel at the age of 96.

The President of the United States

For quite some time, Ronald Reagan held the record for the oldest president on the date of his inauguration – he was 69 on that date in 1981[2]. Others have since been sworn in at older ages, so why does Ronald Reagan make this list instead of them? That’s because for him, politics was a true second act. His career as an actor was long and storied, winning him numerous accolades well before he turned an eye toward the political realm. Ronald Reagan served two terms and was just days shy of his 78th birthday when he celebrated his last day in office. So who is the oldest president in history? That’s Joe Biden, who took the oath of office at the age of 78[3].

Going for the Gold

Oscar Swahn was an astoundingly good marksman. So good, in fact, that he was encouraged to try out for the Olympics. He first participated in the 1908 games, where he won two gold medals at the age of 60. But it wasn’t until winning a gold medal in the 1912 games that he broke the record for the oldest person to ever win gold at the Olympics. He was 64 years old. But he wasn’t done! He went on to other Olympic games and at the age of 72, he became the oldest Olympian ever, as well as the oldest medalist of all time. Fun fact: his son, Alfred Swahn, competed alongside him but didn’t win as many medals as dear old Dad!

Sailing Solo

The ocean is a daunting place even for the most seasoned sailor. Minoru Saito, a sailor from Japan, decided to sail solo and non-stop around the world – a whopping eight times! In 2005, at the age of 71, he set the record for being the oldest person to circumnavigate the globe. But that wasn’t good enough – he broke his own record in 2011 at the age of 77 by sailing around the world again, all on his own. But this time, the journey was even more arduous. It started in 2008 but faced a mountain of delays that turned a planned trip of 287 days into one that took 1,080 days. Talk about perseverance!

Blasting Off

John Glenn was well-known in the science and space world for being part of the Mercury space program in 1962. He set some records back then, including being one of the first Americans in space as well as the first one to orbit the earth. But it wasn’t until 1998 that he broke even more records, this time by becoming the oldest astronaut to go into space. At the time he was a U.S. Senator (his second act in a long life of achievements). He spent 11 days in space at the age of 77.

On Top of the World

Yuichiro Miura suffered from a variety of health issues, including diabetes, multiple operations on his heart and even surgery on his pelvis. Any of these could have left him feeling down and out, but he chose to overcome them – and did he ever. At the age of 70, and again at the age of 75, he summited Mount Everest. But when he did it again at the age of 80, he became the oldest person to ever reach the summit[4]. In fact, today he’s almost 90, and intends to summit Mount Everest again in late 2022 to defend his title as the oldest man to ever do it. (Wonder if medical alert technology works on top of Mount Everest? We’re guessing that no emergency response solution has that kind of range!)

You’re Never Too Old to Learn

In searching for the oldest college graduate, it became clear very quickly that this is a race that crowns a new winner all the time – which just proves you’re never too old to learn something new. Nola Ochs of Kansas graduated from Fort Hayes State University in 2007 at the age of 95, and in 2010, she became the oldest person to receive a master’s degree at age 98[5]. Shigemi Hirata took away that “oldest graduate” crown when he graduated from the Kyoto University of Art and Design at the age of 96[6]. But stay tuned, because more and more people are choosing to earn their degrees in their golden years, so it won’t be a surprise if this record is surpassed again very soon.

What Will You Do?

These are just a few examples of those who pursued and attained extraordinary goals in their later years. The list goes on and on: J. R. R. Tolkien published the first of the Lord of The Rings novels at the age of 62. Jazz musician Miles Davis was 65 when he recorded his definitive live album. Cornelius Vanderbilt didn’t start buying railroads until he was 70. At 75, Barbara Hillary became the first black woman to reach the North Pole. And Michelangelo created the gorgeous architectural plan for the Church of Santa Maria delgi Angeli at the age of 88[7].

From feats of physical strength to community service to great creativity, there’s no doubt that age can be just a number. Stay strong by exercising and eating right, stay safe by wearing a medical alert pendant, stay mentally healthy by constantly learning, and stay curious – always, stay curious. It’s amazing what you can accomplish at any age!

Alert1 wishes you abundant health and safety as you pursue your dreams!