“Age is just a number.” “Growing old is optional.” “80 is the new 40.”
Phrases like these abound in this day and age, and while they may seem like superficial consolations for retirees, there’s actually a lot of truth to them. Young people don't have a monopoly on grand accomplishments and spectacular feats—or even daily fun and vibrant lifestyles.
The secret to achieving amazing things at any age lies in the power of right now, and older adults across the globe have demonstrated repeatedly throughout history that age is not a hindrance but an advantage. Take a look at some incredible accomplishments by people in their golden years.
Thirty years after his passing, Miles Davis is still globally known to this day as being one of the most critically acclaimed and crucially influential figures in the world of jazz and 20th century music as a whole. His 1959 studio album “Kind of Blue” is the bestselling jazz record of all time, and the variety of musical influences, and stylistic directions he used over the course of his five-decade career kept him at the forefront of the music world for generations.
In July 1991, at the age of 65, he defiantly performed and recorded one of his most seminal and legendary live performances at the Jazz a Vienne festival in France. On top of this, the set included two then-new tracks, “Penetration” and “Jailbait,” both written by the equally legendary Prince, a close friend and occasional collaborator. Today, this live album (“Merci Miles! Live in Vienne”) remains one of the most cherished chronicles in his discography.
Noah Webster, Jr., was one of the first prominent names in the world of American education. A textbook pioneer, a connoisseur of the English language, an editor, an author and a political writer, he was the creator of the “Blue-backed Speller” that taught generations of American children how to read and spell.
To this day, he’s known as the “Father of American Scholarship and Education.” At the age of 70, in 1828, he published his comprehensive American Dictionary of the English Language. In the two centuries since, his dictionary has been updated countless times, and remains the top selling English dictionary in the world.
Born in 1931, Barbara Hillary was an American nurse, publisher, inspirational speaker and cancer survivor. A native of New York City, she attended New School University and earned a master’s degree in gerontology (the scientific study of old age and the process of aging). In her retirement, she took up dog-sledding in Quebec and photography in Manitoba.
Upon learning that no African-American woman had yet reached the North Pole, she determined to be the first one to do so. In April 2007, at the age of 75, she became one of the oldest individuals to set foot on the North Pole—and the very first black woman to do so. Five years later, she also became the first to set foot on the South Pole.
Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen was a classical German scholar, historian and journalist and is widely regarded as the greatest classicist of the 1800s. His work in traditional Latin literature and Roman history is still seen as a cornerstone in fundamental research of Western culture. In 1902, at the age of 85, he became the oldest individual to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature for being “the greatest living master of the art of historical writing.” His commentary on Roman law eventually came to have a significant influence on German civil code and legislation.
George Burns was born in January 1896 in New York City, the ninth of twelve children. An American comedian, writer, actor and singer, he had a career that successfully spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television. In 1990, at the age of 94, he performed in Schenectady, NY, on the 63rd anniversary of his very first performance there.
Canadian-born Ed Whitlock ran competitively throughout his teenage years, and in his forties, he rediscovered his passion for it. In 2000, at the age of 69, he became the oldest person to run a marathon in under three hours.
At the age of 87, Pablo Picasso produced 347 engravings in the course of a single year.
Mother Theresa received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 at the age of 69 for her global charity work in over 120 countries.
Retirement is much more than adequately saving and reaping the benefits of a lifetime of hard work. It’s a chance to make a legacy of your name and do something good for yourself or the world. Enjoying creative pursuits or getting involved in charities is a fantastic way to enrich your own life and give back to the world. Organizations such as One Child, a sister organization of Bethesda Senior Living Communities, help meet the needs of impoverished children around the world through food donation, education, medical aid and ministry. Becoming an active proponent of causes such as this can give your golden years fulfillment and motivation to do incredible things and give your life an even deeper meaning.
And remember, you don't have to do great things to make a great difference. Simply loving and caring for your neighbors in an assisted living community like the one at Grand Villa in Grand Junction, CO, can make a big difference to others.