Refusing to “Act Their Age”: Seniors Defying the Stereotypes!

Refusing to “Act Their Age”: Seniors Defying the Stereotypes!

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According to one British study, many adults experience their greatest levels of happiness between the ages of 65 and 79. Another survey concluded that 75% of adults over the age of 50 are less concerned with what people think about them compared to when they were younger. 6 out of 10 surveyed said that they enjoy life more than they did in their youth, and the vast majority of respondents said they were now living for the present rather than for the future.


Being more adventurous and less self-conscious as we age can be great for our health. Below, we’ve highlighted the stories of a number of seniors who have taken on unique and inspiring pursuits in their later years. Reading their profiles is guaranteed to motivate you to follow your own dreams!



Become a Bodybuilder Like Ernestine Shepherd & Edith Wilma Connor 


At the age of 83, Ernestine Shepherd is rocking a fit and toned figure with less than 10% body fat! If you had met Ernestine as a young adult, however, you’d have never predicted that she’d one day become the oldest competitive female bodybuilder in the world! When trying on bathing suits with her sister at the age of 56, Ernestine realized that she was sorely out of shape. Though the two sisters started pursuing their fitness goals together, the sudden death of Ernestine’s sister came as a heartbreaking shock. Ultimately, though, Ernestine resolved to continue pursuing the goals that the two sisters had set together; over time, Ernestine transformed her life, becoming one of the world’s fittest seniors. Today, she remains an active bodybuilder. She trains senior women during the workweek and participates in running and strength training on a daily basis. Her healthy and active lifestyle has kept her feeling energized and has helped her lead a pain-free, medication-free life well into her 80s.


Edith Wilma Connor followed a similar life path. Living a normal, sedentary life as a data analyst, Edith decided one day to start weight training. Learning the techniques of weightlifting from her son, Edith soon found that pumping iron was a great way to relieve tension in her life. She felt empowered; bodybuilding was something that she could do by herself, for herself. She became hooked, and at the age of 77 earned recognition as one of the world’s oldest competitive female bodybuilders. Today, she continues training with her children and grandchildren, while also working with other seniors as a personal trainer. 

If you secretly dream of feeling fit and full of energy, try following in the footsteps of these two dynamic older ladies! 



Pursue Your Academic Dreams Like Kimani Maruge & Nola Och


Never let anyone tell you that it’s too late for you to pursue an education! If you’re feeling discouraged, let yourself be inspired by these two senior role models. 


In 2003, the government of Kenya announced its commitment to offering free, universal elementary school education to its citizens. Maruge, who had never attended primary school, decided to enroll in the first grade at the age of 84. He was recognized as a top pupil at his school and even traveled to New York to address the UN World Summit on the importance of free education, noting the impact that schooling had made on his life. Even when Maruge’s property was stolen and destroyed during a riot in 2008, he kept attending school. He continued pursuing his education even after he was forced to move to a refugee camp and then a retirement home. Until his death, Maruge continued attending school and learning. His story has been an inspiration to students of all ages, both across Kenya and around the world.Nola Ochs is another inspiring tale of a senior with a thirst for knowledge. Though she started her first college course in 1930, life got in the way, and she never finished her degree. After raising four sons and becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother, Ochs was inspired to go back to school. She began taking courses at a local community college and soon found herself just a few credits short of a bachelor’s degree. At the age of 95 she graduated from Fort Hays State University, graduating alongside her 21-year-old granddaughter. “Our education is never complete… I’d like, in the long run, to encourage people to keep on learning,” Ochs said. True to her own word, Ochs continued pursuing her education, graduating with a master’s degree in liberal studies in 2010. 


Have you always had a deep desire to further your education? Modern technology makes it possible to pursue higher education through online courses, too! If you have a subject you’ve always wanted to study, commit to becoming a life-long learner. It’s never too late to begin again!



Stay in the Spotlight Like Hank Brunjes & Daphne Selfe


Sometimes, being an active senior means continuing to follow your life’s work far beyond your retirement years. Daphne Selfe and Hank Brunjes are two incredible senior role models who refuse to step out of the spotlight!


Born in Brooklyn, New York, Hank Brunjes has been a performer since the day he was born. Dancing since the age of 4, he was just 20 when he made his Broadway debut. Brunjes was even a member of the original West Side Story cast. Like many adults, Brunjes pursued his career until his late 50s. Retired and stuck at home, Brunjes found himself feeling somewhat depressed. Was this really the end?A friend soon called him and encouraged him to move out to California. Today, he’s back on stage, performing with the famous Palm Spring Follies in over 200 shows a year. Hank says that he’s now enjoying the best years of his life. He finds performing on stage to be cathartic. Through singing and dancing, he’s been able to chase away any negativity that comes his way.

Daphne Selfe has been a cover girl since 1949. Today, she is recognized as the world’s oldest professional model. At 91, Daphne is still pursuing work as a model. At the age of 70 she appeared in a fashion show at London Fashion Week and soon signed with an agency that represents her to this day. Though she had previously been working as a film extra, her popularity as a model soon filled up her calendar, leading her to drop her extra work altogether. Still high-energy and full of passion for her job, Selfe is grateful to have travelled the globe while pursuing her dreams. For those interested in modeling later in life, she recommends taking care of one’s health and remaining confident and focused. Ultimately, age is just a number!



Pursue a New Sport Like John Lowe & Charlie Edwards


Most of us have fantasies that we’ve never gotten around to pursuing. Instead of telling yourself that it’s too late, commit to make your dreams a reality!


John Lowe is one amazing late-in-life success story. A prisoner of war in Japan during his younger years, no one would have imagined that John would one day be an inspiring senior dancer. At the age of 79, Lowe began pursuing his lifelong ambition of becoming a ballet dancer. By the time he was approaching 90, Lowe was dancing professionally! Today, he rehearses three times a week and practices at home every day. What advice does Lowe have to seniors looking to pursue their dreams? “Find something that will completely change your life… I think everyone can come up with something.” 


Charlie Edwards discovered his future hobby purely by chance. While in an elevator with another man at his retirement home, he noticed that the man was carrying an “interesting-looking package,” which turned out to hold a bow and arrow set. On a whim, Edwards decided to try out archery for himself. Soon, he was hooked, and within a year he began entering competitions.Edwards came in last place in his first National Senior Games. With just a year of experience, it’s no surprise that he lost to his two competitors, one who had been practicing the sport for 80 years and the other who was a professional archery instructor. The following year, though, Edwards came in first place. He had to laugh, because he took home the medal with no competition; there were no other archers in the 95-99 age category! Shooting over 180 arrows over two hot summer days, Edwards truly earned his gold medal! What is Edward’s personal motto? “I shoot for my personal best.” We should all follow in Charlie Edwards’ footsteps and strive for our own personal best, regardless of our age! 

Though aging affects the body in many ways, determination, passion, and a positive attitude can help us overcome many of the challenges of growing older. By following in the footsteps of these inspiring senior role models, we can use our retirement years to become the very best versions of ourselves. Do you have a hobby or passion that you’ve always wanted to pursue? Share your goals in the comment section below, and start following your dreams today! You’ll be glad that you did!




Photo: pasja1000 /

Editor, 11/19/2020