Senior citizens are having a moment. The U.S. population is getting older — average life expectancy has passed 80 years for women and 75 years for men, and it’s expected to keep rising, thanks to advances in medicine, nutrition www.mygenewize.com/lifestyles, and safety. In fact, about one in seven adults today is older than 80, and the fastest-growing age group is people over 100. But many of today’s seniors aren’t content to sit still and age quietly. Lately, we’ve seen headlines of amazing elders who have completed marathons, graduated college, raced in NASCAR, and more. “No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start living a healthier, more active, more engaging lifestyle,” says Terry Grossman, MD, a physician with an anti-aging and complementary medicine practice in Denver and co-author of Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever. Even things like walking an extra 10 minutes a day or taking an adult education class can help keep your body and mind sharp over time, he says. So whether you’re 35, 55, or 75, let these inspiring stories motivate you to cross a life goal off that proverbial bucket list.
Gladys Burrill (or as her friends call her, “the Gladyator”) was 86 years old when she ran her first marathon— and she hasn’t stopped running since. Six years later, she crossed the Honolulu Marathon finish line to become the oldest woman ever to complete a 26-mile race, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The 92-year-old Hawaii resident finished the December 2010 race with a time of 9 hours and 53 minutes. Impressive, yes, but long-distance running isn’t her only extraordinary hobby: During her lengthy life, Burrill has flown aircraft and dabbled in mountain climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, and horseback riding. What’s the Gladyator’s secret? A go-getter attitude. “It’s so important to think positive,” she told NBC Sports. “It makes such a difference in how you feel and your outlook on everything.”
Kansas-born Nola Ochs took her first college course at Fort Hays State University (then known as Kansas State College) in 1930 — but didn’t complete her degree until 2007, at the age of 95, becoming the nation’s oldest college graduate. After raising four sons and becoming a grandmother to 13 and great-grandmother to 15, Ochs started taking a few classes at her local community college to keep herself busy. Before she knew it, she was just 30 hours shy of a bachelor’s degree, and she decided to re-enroll at FHSU. But graduating with a 3.7 GPA — alongside her granddaughter! — wasn’t quite enough: Ochs then decided to get her master’s degree in liberal studies, which she received from FHSU in May 2010 at the age of 98. “I would like, in the long run, to encourage people to keep on learning,” she told FHSU’s newspaper, Tiger Talk. “Our education is never complete.”
It takes energy, dedication, and a whole lot of talent to make it on Broadway. And for Frank Brunjes, the performance bug has stuck with him well into his seventies. Brooklyn-born Brunjes started dancing when he was 4, was barely 20 when he launched his Broadway career as an ensemble cast member in Pal Joey, and was part of the original cast of West Side Story in 1957. Now, at the age of 78, he still sings and dances as a regular in the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies in Palm Springs, Calif. How does he feel about performing nearly 190 shows a year? “It’s great to have a job where I can express my talents and abilities,” he says in his Follies bio. “Never make the mistake of thinking you’re too old for anything!” I have personally seen this show and they are amazing! and beautiful!
Many consider her “the greatest stuntwoman who’s ever lived,” according to Entertainment Weekly. Epper may be a great-grandmother, but that doesn’t stop her from jumping through glass windows and escaping from burning buildings at the ripe age of 70. In the 1970s, she served as Lynda Carter’s stunt double in the TV series Wonder Woman. Today she still performs stunts in such movies as The Back-Up Plan, The Fast and the Furious, and Kill Bill. In fact, she’s cheated death in more than 100 Hollywood films, and she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Taurus World Stunt Awards in 2009. Does Epper ever worry about her safety? Confidence may be the key to her success: ”As far as I’m concerned, whenever I do a stunt, it’s 150 percent going to work out,” she told EW.
Frances Woofenden calls herself “an 84-year-old grandmother who just loves life” on her Web site — but acknowledges that she’s not “your typical Granny.” Why? Woofenden is a competitive water-skier who has more than 100 medals to her name. Even more impressive, Woofenden didn’t start waterskiing until she moved to Florida at age 50. Decked out in pink lipstick, gold hoop earrings, and a backless bathing suit, she’s as stylish as she is skilled. “What did you want, me to wear bloomers?” she asked CBS News during an interview.
How would you feel if your personal trainer was twice your age? If she were 74-year-old Ernestine Shepherd, you’d probably be motivated to finish that last set of bicep curls. Shepherd is the world’s oldest female bodybuilder (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), works as a certified personal trainer at her Baltimore gym, and wakes up at 3 a.m. every morning to run (she logs 80 miles a week) and lift weights (she can bench-press 150 pounds). “I feel better than I did at 40,” she recently told ABC News.
He’s 103, but Wesley Brown is still earning his living as a federal judge on the Kansas District Court — a position to which President John F. Kennedy appointed him nearly 50 years ago. Brown was once known for his temper on the bench; today his colleagues call him inspirational and say that he’s as mentally astute as ever. Brown recently cut back his case load, but he has no plans to retire — or to keep track of the number of candles on his birthday cake (he’ll turn 104 in June). “I’m not interested in how old I am,” he recently told The New York Times. “I’m interested in how good a job I can do.”
Life is a (very fast) highway for Hershel McGriff. He started racing cars in 1945; in 1989, at age 61, he became the oldest driver to win a NASCAR race. But he hasn’t turned off the ignition yet: At 81, he recently competed in a national NASCAR race at Portland International Raceway, finishing 13th. NASCAR racing may be dangerous, but that doesn’t faze this Motorsports Hall of Famer. Perhaps it’s this need for speed that keeps McGriff young at heart. “As long as I’m fast, I’m [having fun],” he said on his Web site.
These newlywed lovebirds are collectively 190 years old (he’s 100; she’s 90). When they married in March in California, they broke Guinness’ record as the world’s oldest couple to get hitched. The two have been dating for nearly 30 years, but they decided to make it official on Lunsway’s 100th birthday. Surprising their wedding guests (who thought they were attending a birthday party) with vows and a kiss, Lunsway told his new wife: “I want you to hang around for a lot of years — because I’m going to be 110!”
Their ages range from 73 to 89, but the members of the Young@Heart chorus have one thing in common: They sing, and they sing loud! Featured in a 2007 Fox Searchlight Documentary (named after the group), these singing seniors have gained a following and still tour throughout the country. Belting out tunes from Bruce Springsteen to RadioHead, they prove that you’re never too old to rock out. In fact, when asked how Young@Heart compares to other choruses, director Bob Cilman said in a PBS interview, “We bring to it the requisite amount of energy needed for rock and roll.”
Conclusion? Is it in your Genes? well the answer is yes, some of it is. For more information on how to express your Genes to their full potential go to www.mygenewize.com/lifestyles