If someone ever tells you that you’re never too old to learn believe them, and if you start looking around for examples, you’ll quickly realize that age simply doesn’t seem to matter to some people. In fact, many don’t hit their stride until relatively late in life, many of them reaching surprising levels of achievement.

Most of these folks maintain that age is only a state of mind, and they keep on with keeping on, not even slowing down as they reach the "official" retirement age of 62 or 65, just whizzing by and getting on with things, acting like they’re just getting warmed up!

A good example is Thomas Edison. When someone called him a genius, he explained that "genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration," and just kept on inventing and patenting this and that, his creations finally totaling one thousand and ninety three items, his last when he was 83 years old. It was a holder for items being electroplated.

When we start looking for them, we find that there are lots of people who didn’t pay much attention to their age, but simply went about doing what they liked doing – probably even having fun along the way.

One year older than Edison, at 84, Eamon de Valera won a second term as Ireland’s President in 1966, becoming the oldest democratically elected head of state in history, and while the age of 84 is getting up there, consider painter Marc Chagall[L1] , who at the ripe old age of 90 became the first living artist to be exhibited in Paris’ Louvre museum in 1977.

Grandma Moses was another example. She started painting at 78, and kept right on going. Apparently it helped her to stay young, as she died in 1961 at the age of a hundred and one after producing over one thousand five hundred oil paintings in her own “primitive” style and achieving worldwide fame.

At the other end of the ‘activity scale’ was Min Bahadur.

In 2008, he successfully climbed Mount Everest. At age 76 he was the oldest person to do so.

Doc Paskowitz was the subject of the film ‘Surfwise’, and was still actively surfing every day at the age of 86!

Another 86 year old was Katherine Pelton who swam the two hundred meter butterfly in three minutes, one and fourteen hundredths of a second in 1992. She beat the 85 to 89 year old men’s record by more than twenty seconds!

Do you remember Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science Monitor newspaper? That was way back in 1908, when she was 87.

In 1533, and at the age of 88, Michelangelo drew up the plans for Rome’s Santa Maria degli Angeli church.

At 92, Dr. Paul Spangler of San Luis Obispo, California ran his fourteenth marathon, and one year older, P. G. Wodehouse wrote his 95th book in 1975. That also happened to be the same year in which he was knighted by the queen!

Bob Hope was well known for taking a USO show to entertain American troops anywhere they happened to be. In 1990, during Operation Desert Storm Hope went to Saudi Arabia. He was 87 years old at the time.

And there’s another entertainer who needs to be included in our list – Betty White, who at 89 was presented with the Screen Actors Guild Award for Comedy Actress in 2010, one year after winning the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award – and she kept right on working!

You probably never heard of a man named Bernard Herzberg. He was a retired union organizer who earned a Master of Arts degree in Refugee Studies at the University of East London in 2005.

Bernard was 95 at the time.

Writing is not as strenuous as almost any other occupation – until you try it. Then inventing what you’re writing about can be hard work.

That didn’t even slow down Alice Pollock. In 1971 she published her first book, a memoir she titled My Victorian Youth.

She was a hundred and two!

So there we are, sitting on the sidelines and watching these folks proving that age doesn’t always mean getting old.

Like fine wine, you can improve with age.


— Newton columnist Mike Morton writes weekly for the Kansan. He can be reached at m24r24fm8445@att.net