16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them
16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them

16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them

D.G. Hewitt - June 2, 2019

16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them
Noah Webster with the landmark dictionary he released aged 69. Noah Webster House.

4. Noah Webster was 69-years-old when he released his famous dictionary and he spent the rest of his life updating it

Noah Webster had a lifelong passion for language. So much so, in fact, that when he released his landmark dictionary in 1828 he was 69-years-old. Of course, he fit a lot into the preceding 7 decades. Born in 1758, he worked as a writer and editor for the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. He also served in the Connecticut House of Representatives and played an influential role in laying the foundations of the abolitionist movement, campaigning against the evils of slavery in his home state. However, it was his, book An American Dictionary of the English Language, that was his greatest achievement.

The work, which was published 22 years after his first attempt at producing a dictionary, made Webster’s name. What’s more, it kick-started a late career as the country’s go-to guy for language matters. Webster played a key role in the creation of the Copyright Act of 1831 and he was working on an updated version of his celebrated book right up until his death at the age of 84. The modern Merriam-Webster dictionary and continues to be the number one reference point for students across the United States.

16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them
Colonel Sanders even adopted his trademark look when he was in his 60s. Wikimedia Commons.

3. Colonel Sanders endured a lifetime of setbacks to finally strike it rich when most people his age were retiring

While many people retire from work at the age of 65, Harland David Sanders was just getting started. The American businessman had spent 50 years trying to earn his fortune. Born in 1890, he had a wide range of jobs as a young man. However, he never took to the insurance business or to pumping gas. When the rest of the country was struggling through the Great Depression, Sanders set up a roadside diner and patented his “secret recipe”. And even when he was forced to close his first restaurant and rely on social security checks to get by, Sanders used his experience to bounce back.

According to the legend, Colonel Sanders – the title was given to him by the State of Kentucky rather than by the U.S. Army – set up his first KFC at the age of 65. Recognizing the potential of the franchising model, he oversaw his company’s rapid expansion across the United States. By the time he turned 70, he was a rich man. And at the age of 73, he sold KFC for $2 million. Even then, the Colonel had no plans to retire and play golf. For years, he traveled the country, serving as a well-paid ambassador for KFC. Towards the end of his life. However, Sanders became highly critical of the brand he set up.

16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them
Sir Winston Churchill pictured here on his 80th birthday. Wikimedia Commons.

2. Winston Churchill was only forced to quit politics at the age of 89 and even served as Prime Minister in his ninth decade

Having led his country to victory in the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill would surely have been entitled to take it easy and enjoy a comfortable retirement. However, ever the statesman and missing the action of front line politics, he decided to make a comeback in old age. Just one month shy of his 77th birthday, Churchill became Prime Minister for a second time. He had beaten his political rival, the Labour leader Clement Atlee, in a fiercely contested election and was eager to get back at him for his defeat in 1945.

Though he enjoyed the backing of the public, Churchill’s own wife, as well as his personal doctor, expressed their reservations about his comeback. Churchill was not only a 77-year-old Prime Minister, he also named himself Minister of Defense. The stress was simply too much. He suffered a mild stroke at the start of 1952. The following summer, he was hit by another, more serious stroke. Churchill soon accepted his time was up. At the age of 80, he finally resigned. Even then, however, he remained a Member of Parliament up until the age of 89, only stepping down one year before his death in 1965.

16 Geriatric Figures from History who Didn’t Let Age Stop Them
Ronald Reagan spent his 70s busy in the White House instead of in quiet retirement. Wikipedia.

1. Ronald Reagan wasn’t content with one successful career, so he became President just days before turning 70

Ronald Wilson Reagan continues to be hold up as the perfect example of that perfect second career. He’s also proof that you don’t need to start young to get to the top. Indeed, Reagan was in his 50s when he first started getting actively involved in American politics. And he was 69 years and 349 days old when he took the oath of office and started work as the 40th President of the United States of America. Thanks mainly to his economic policies as well as his tough foreign policies, Reagan won re-election.

At 73-years-old, he became the oldest person to date to take the Presidential Oath of Office. What makes Reagan’s life story even more remarkable is that fact that, prior to his stellar political career, he also enjoyed great success as a movie actor. After starring in several big-budget movies, he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and then picked up some lucrative speaking gigs. He could have retired into a life of comfort and celebrity at the age of 60. However, he believed old age should be no barrier to ambition.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Melchora Aquino de Ramos.” Biography.com.

“William IV (1765-1837).” BBC History.

“Who Was Laura Ingalls Wilder?” Patricia Brennan Demuth 2013.

“Colonel Saunders founded KFC at the age of 65!” Business Insider India.

“6 surprising facts about Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Deseret News, February 2018.

“Great Figures: Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869).” BBC History.

“Before the Walk: Meet the 82-Year-Old Tightrope Walker.” Time.com.

“Many Founding Fathers Were Shockingly Young When the Declaration of Independence Was Signed In 1776.” Business Insider.

“Philippe Pétain (1856 – 1951).” BBC History.

“Has History Got Roman Emperor Tiberius All Wrong?” The Getty Museum Blog, October 2013.

“Enrico Dandolo and the way history overlooks disability.” BBC Magazine, November 2012.

“Oscar Swahn: Olympic Shooting.” Olympic.org.

“Churchill Becomes Prime Minister Again.” History Today.