Who said that you need to slow down when you get older? The tech world might currently be driven and led by impossibly young super-geniuses who are considered to have the energy and youthfulness needed to form giant companies, but this isn’t the only time in one’s life when significant accomplishments can be made.
There are plenty of older people who have made spectacular achievements when many may have been thinking about putting their feet up. Whether they’re leading countries, going into space or simply expanding their knowledge of the world, they are proof that life doesn’t stop at 60 – getting older might even be a good thing. If you’re lucky, driven and committed, they might be the most fruitful and satisfying years of your life.
Countess Rosa Branicka successfully performs breast cancer surgery on herself at the age of 63
The story of Countess Rosa Branicka is frustrating to recount because it sounds so fascinating and yet there isn’t much historical record about it. We know that she was diagnosed with breast cancer but for some reason refused the surgical ministrations of her doctors, instead electing to remove her tumour by herself in a Paris hotel room.
The surgery was a complete success by anyone’s standards – Rosa recovered quickly and lived to the age of 82. But why did she choose to do it herself? What was wrong with the doctors? What did she use? What did the proprietors of the hotel think about their room being turned into an operating theatre? We’ll never know – but we do know that performing successful major surgery on yourself at any age, much less in your sixties, is a stunning achievement.
Nelson Mandela becomes the president of South Africa at the age of 75
Considering he was supposed to have been imprisoned for life for “plotting to overthrow the South African government”, Nelson Mandela’s achievements are nothing short of remarkable.
As an instrumental figure in the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela overcame racial barriers and general establishment hostility to become the first black president of South Africa in 1994. Within four years of his release from prison, he had successfully united an entire country that had been at war with itself for decades. Though he only served for five years, his legacy lives on throughout South Africa, the continent and the entire global community.
Benjamin Franklin negotiates the Treaty of Paris at the age of 76
Among his many achievements, Benjamin Franklin is perhaps most closely associated with the time period in which America was fighting to rid itself of British colonialists during the 18th century. He was one of the drafters and signatories of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and later negotiated the Treaty of Paris, which formalised the end of the United States’ Revolutionary War with Britain and brought years of bloodshed to an official and successful end.
Franklin’s legacy permeates America’s culture even today – he has been called “the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States”, and in what might be the greatest understatement of all time, his death was described by the presiding doctor as the closing of “a long and useful life”. We should all be so lucky to live as useful a life.
John Glenn goes into space at the age of 77
Still comfortably the oldest person to go into space (a record that probably won’t be broken for a very long time yet), John Glenn was cheating slightly with his achievement in the sense that he’d already left the Earth’s orbit once as one of the “Mercury Seven”. His first jaunt took place in 1962 with the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission (only the third manned spaceflight in NASA’s history) and his second took place in 1998 while he was serving as a US Senator.
Glenn lobbied NASA for two years to be allowed to do so, and his participation in the Discovery STS-95 mission allowed scientists to study the effects of weightlessness and other aspects of space flight on the same person 36 years apart (as well as on the elderly).
Yuichiro Miura climbs Everest three times between the ages of 70 and 80
Similarly, Yuichiro Miura’s lifelong experience as an alpinist undoubtedly assisted him in the extraordinary feat of climbing Mount Everest not once, not twice, but three times between his 70th and 80th birthdays. He climbed the mountain at the age of 70, breaking the record for the oldest person to scale Everest, but this record was broken – what else would you do but climb it again? He reached the summit again at the age of 75, and then decided to do it a third time as an octogenarian. One imagines that at this point, a jaunt up and down Everest for him is the same as popping to the corner shop for the rest of us.
As if that wasn’t enough, Miura also holds the record for being the first person to ski down the mountain…but as he was a sprightly 38 at the time, that’s not an achievement we can accept here!
Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma at 95
No matter how old one gets, the desire to learn never goes away. Nola Ochs knows this better than anyone – the then 95-year-old became the world’s oldest college graduate when she graduated alongside her granddaughter at Ford Hays State University in 2007. She earned a degree in general studies with an emphasis on history…and then she went back for more!
After helping out with the wheat harvest at her family’s farm, Nola returned to Fort Hays to pursue her master’s degree in liberal studies, graduating in 2010 at the age of 98. Young students today could learn a thing or two from her dedication and desire to further her knowledge.
As you can see, success has no age limit. Many have achieved great things after the age of 60 and there will be many more to do so in the future, will you be one of them?
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