Age Is Nothing but a Number: 7 People Who Serve as Examples that Growing Older Rocks


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Many of us have deeply-entrenched stereotypes about growing older[1. “10 Stereotypes About Aging (That Just Aren’t True),” https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/aging-process/5-stereotypes-about-aging.htm] lodged in our minds. We often assume that adults in their golden years can’t learn new things, test their limits, or contribute to society. Well, if you think growing older is all about rocking chairs and knitting, here’s a list of people we admire who prove otherwise!

Ernestine Shepherd

This 79-year-old was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest performing body builder (as of 2010). Still working as a certified trainer at her gym, Shepherd says she actually feels better now than she did when she was 40. She also stated that she “lives to inspire senior women to reach their physical potential.”

Sean Connery

You’re probably already familiar with the Scottish-born, internationally-known actor, Sean Connery. But what you may not know is that before he retired, he continued thriving in his career well after many of his colleagues had thrown in the towel. Numerous fans around the world still consider him the quintessential James Bond, a part he played from 1962 to 1971. Finally, he was voted the Sexiest Man Alive in 1989 — when he was 60!

Nola Ochs

At 95 years old, Nola Ochs didn’t only make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, she broke the record for the world’s oldest college graduate in 2007. In fact, she graduated with her 21-year-old granddaughter from Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Kansas. She then went on to receive her Master’s Degree three years later, at age 98. When discussing her accomplishments, Ochs said, “I don’t dwell on my age. As long as I have my mind and health, it’s just a number.”

Dame Maggie Smith

At 80 years old, British actress Maggie Smith shows no signs of slowing down. A renowned thespian for over sixty years, it seems that not even a battle with breast cancer[2. “Maggie Smith beats breast cancer,” https://www.express.co.uk/celebrity-news/194683/Maggie-Smith-beats-breast-cancer] can stop her (she finished all eight Harry Potter films as Professor McGonagall despite her diagnosis in 2008). In more recent years, she’s wowed audiences as the quick-witted Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey.

Hershel McGriff

Many older adults have problems with driving, but not Hershel McGriff! At age 81, he earned the title of NASCAR’s oldest driver. He’s won 31 NASCAR victories total, and as of 2011, said he still wasn’t ready to retire. According to Mr. McGriff, “If I didn’t have anything to do, I’d just get into trouble!”

Iris Apfel

With her enormous round and black iconic sunglasses, this 94-year-old interior and jewelry designer sets the tone as an American classic. Recognized around the world for her unique sense of style, Apfel has had her work displayed at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, consulted on a makeup line, and modeled for the famous handbag company Coach. Even younger women regard her as their fashion guru. According to Apfel, “Women of all [. . .] ages tell me I’m a great liberating force in their lives and I give them courage. I’ve got a whole fan club of young women, which I think is so funny.”

Carmen Dell’Orefice

With her beautiful shock of white hair and piercing gaze, this 84-year-old is the world’s oldest working model, according to the Daily Mail. With a career that began at age fifteen in 1946, she was one of the youngest people to appear on the cover of Vogue that year. The most amazing thing? She hasn’t stopped working since!

New ways of growing older

These striking examples show that growing older doesn’t have to be frightening. While it’s true that some of these individuals may be outliers, their potential lies within all of us. You may not be break world records, but you can certainly push yourself to set and achieve goals – at any age. And the best part is, when you do, you not only realize your own power: you help other people do so as well!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

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