Golden Achievements

Collage of 4 people who found fame after 50 (clockwise from left): Laura Ingalls Wilder; Colonel Sanders; Julia Child; Grandma Moses.

May embodies new beginnings – something we don’t often connect with aging. But May is Older Americans Month, and it would be a mistake to underestimate the vitality and energy of our elders. Age is not just a number but a testament to one’s life’s experiences, learning, and contributions.

Established in 1963 when only about 17 million Americans lived to be 65, Older Americans Month acknowledges the contributions of past and current older persons to our country. It serves as a reminder of their enduring influence and importance. In fact, you might be surprised at the names that achieved acclaim after 50.

So, let’s celebrate the achievements of some who have shown us that significant contributions don’t have a deadline:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Though she began writing in her forties, it wasn’t until Wilder turned 65 that she published “Little House in the Big Woods,” the first of her iconic “Little House” books. The enduringly popular stories were inspired by Wilder’s pioneering childhood, and she wrote them because she realized she lived through history. The series captivated millions and became the television show “Little House on the Prairie” in 1974, continuing her influence for several generations.
  • Colonel Sanders (Harland David Sanders) Colonel Sanders was 62 when he first franchised his chicken business, turning it into Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was 65 when he traveled across the country to sell his 11 herbs and spices; he would cook batches of chicken, go from restaurant to restaurant, and strike deals where he’d get a nickel for every chicken sold. His business model challenged the dominance of hamburgers and revolutionized the fast-food industry, proving that entrepreneurial success has no age limit.
  • Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) At 78, Grandma Moses started painting and became one of America’s most famous folk artists. Moses was a self-taught artist and used whatever was available, including used house paint and leftover fireboards. In 1945, at the age of 85, Hallmark bought the rights to put her paintings on Christmas cards and sold 6 million in the first year. Her works were praised for their vibrant depictions of rural life and earned her an international reputation, proving that new skills and passions can be developed regardless of age.
  • Julia Child Julia Child revolutionized American cuisine by presenting an approachable version of sophisticated French cooking. Although she published a cookbook at 49, it wasn’t until her TV show “The French Chef” brought her national and international recognition at the age of 51. Betsy West, producer of the documentary Julia, explains Child’s appeal, “She was authentic — she wasn’t hiding if she made a mistake, she acknowledged it and then showed you what to do when you make a mistake in the kitchen.” Julia kept inspiring amateur and professional chefs as she aged, co-founding the American Institute of Wine and Food in 1981 at age 69 and creating the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and Culinary Arts in 1995 at 83.

Aging is an asset to communities which enriches our collective lives. Services like those by Family Home Health can support our seniors so they can continue to contribute. Older Americans Month isn’t just about celebrating ages past but also for inspiring future generations. It’s about recognizing the limitless potential that comes with age and the continued impact of older adults in all areas of life.

Categories: Healthy Aging