In 1932, Audrey Crabtree sustained an injury that caused her to leave high school one credit shy of graduation. Taking care of her sick grandmother, and later getting married, kept her from returning to school. Even though she went on to own a successful flower shop, and to have a large family, she always regretted never graduating. However, 80 years later, Audrey was finally awarded her honorary diploma at age 99, proving that no one is ever too old to achieve something meaningful.

There are many stories of seniors who had great accomplishments later in life. In fact, many famous people throughout history made their greatest contributions at an older age:

    • Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” book series, was 64 when she published her first work, Little House in the Big Woods, in 1932. She went on to write the next seven books in the series, which became American children’s classics and a popular TV series.
    • Susan B. Anthony was past the age of 80 when she formed the International Woman Suffrage Alliance.
    • At age 87, Pablo Picasso produced 347 engravings in one year.
    • Benjamin Franklin was 70 when he signed the Declaration of Independence, one of the 3 documents by the Continental Congress that he contributed to. He did not retire from public service until he was 82.
    • In 1979, Mother Theresa received the Nobel Peace Prize at age 69 for her work with “Missionaries of Charity,” a world-wide organization that helped the sick, the poor, the dying, and disaster victims through a network of religious houses, schools, hospices, and charity centers in more than 120 countries.
    • Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as “Grandma Moses”, did not start painting until she was 76 years old, after her arthritis made it too hard for her to hold an embroidery needle. Even though she had no formal training, she painted every day for 25 years and produced thousands of paintings. Her simple depictions of farm life were shown all around the world, and when she died at age 101, then-President John F. Kennedy released a statement praising her paintings for inspiring a nation, noting, “All Americans mourn her loss.”

Other seniors, like Audrey, fulfilled lifelong dreams after years of hard work.

    • At age 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest college graduate when she received a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University, Kansas in 2007. She didn’t stop there ­– she went on to pursue a Master’s degree as well.
    • George Weiss tinkered around in his basement for 50 years, producing more than 80 different inventions before finally creating one that investors were interested in at age 84. His original game “Dabble” is now sold in 50 stores nationwide and won the 2011 Game of the Year Award from Creative Child Magazine.
    • Leo Plass dropped out of college one semester before graduation in 1932 during the Great Depression. He was on track to become a teacher, but took a higher paying position in a logging outfit because of the tough financial times. At age 99, he finally completed his degree and received his diploma from Eastern Oregon University.

Amazing Physical Feats

The average life expectancy continues to grow each year, and longevity is quickly becoming normal for seniors everywhere, so it makes sense that more and more seniors are making incredible physical accomplishments at increasing ages.

“We are witnessing the biggest demographic transformation in human history … where advances in medicine and lifestyle improvements and awareness of factors that lead to healthy aging have enabled people to reach a very old age,” said geriatric specialist Dr. Jeffrey M. Levine. “This is really a recent phenomenon in history.” A combination of genetics, hard work, and determination resulted in these amazing senior accomplishments:

    • Dale Davis, who is legally blind, bowled a perfect game of 300 at age.
    • At age 75, cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the first black woman, to reach the North Pole.
    • Allan Johnson, 80, has been calf-roping since 1946 and is a member of the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association. Despite multiple broken fingers, a twice-broken left leg, broken arms, and two knee replacements, Allan still rides every day and regularly participates in physically demanding tie-down calf-roping events.
    • Keiko Fukuda was still teaching judo and self-defense classes at age 98, despite having bad knees and Parkinson’s disease. In 2011, she became the first woman to ever attain a 10th-degree black belt, judo’s highest honor.
    • 92-year-old track-and-field champion Olga Kotelko holds more than 20 world records for track-and-field events, and doctors continue to study her extensively because of her enduring physical prowess.
    • In 2011, 81-year-old Lew Hollander, became the oldest person to ever complete the annual Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run.

Lifelong yoga enthusiast Tao Porchon-Lynch fell and broke her hip at age 87, requiring a hip replacement surgery. Her doctor told her she would have to slow down and take it easy on herself – advice that she did not take to heart. A month after her surgery, she began taking ballroom dancing lessons and at age 93 was winning dancing competitions and still teaching 12 yoga classes a week.

“I sent my doctor a photo of myself, lifting myself off the ground with my legs crossed and balancing on my hands, along with a little note saying, ‘I just wanted to show you that there’s nothing you can’t do,’” Porchon-Lynch said.


Written by Taylor French, Amada Contributor.