5/12/2023 | By Kari Smith

These five incredible older adults – a few among many – demonstrate that age is not a limiting factor for mental and physical achievements or success.

age·ism: noun | prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.

“You’re too old to do that.”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit late in life to start that?”
“Leave that for someone younger than you.”

Well, here’s another phrase: “Age is just a number.”

You have probably heard that particular one many times – because it’s true. There is simply no age at which you should be expected hang it up based only on a number. The incredible older adults in this article are just a small sample of those who prove daily that age is the number of birthdays you have had – and not an indication of what you can accomplish. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, seniors can combine their capabilities with their grit and experience to pull off astounding feats. In fact, I submit that there are many older adults who are far more capable at advanced ages than their younger counterparts.

Five incredible older adults

Seven marathons in seven days

Jill Jamieson during the Inca Trail Marathon. From Jill Jamieson's archives.

This year, Virginia native Jill Jamieson completed seven marathons – that’s 26.2 miles each – in seven days on seven continents. She completed the final marathon on the final day of her 56th year, raising awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of her father. She also plans to run the North Pole Marathon, which along with the seven continent runs, will earn her the Marathon Grand Slam medal. Not a professional runner, Jamieson works in the financial field for the U.S. government. Fueled by her father’s fight with dementia, she used running as a healthy outlet and ran her first marathon in 2005.

Bungee jumping

Mohr Keet earned the title of “World’s Oldest Bungee Jumper” at the age of 96, landing a spot in the Official Guinness Records. However, the South African, who didn’t begin jumping until the age of 88, didn’t do it for the record. In fact, he did not even know he had broken the record until after the 708-foot drop from Bloukrans Bridge in Nature’s Valley, Western Cape, South Africa in 2010. The World War II veteran was quoted as saying “You have to face a challenge, to be able to go through with it for yourself – not for exhibition but for yourself.”

Entering a new career field

Emamanual Gasa decided at the age of 60 to become an attorney. Despite a previous career in the medical and teaching fields, a colleague suggested that Gasa become a law tutor. Even though he had previous education in the field, he enrolled in law classes and began his studies with a class full of students far his junior. This father of six and grandfather of 15 took 11 years to complete his education and training. Although he found that he wasn’t treated as other law clerks – in fact, he was treated better, which he didn’t prefer – he did struggle to find a job before being admitted as an attorney in the North Gauteng’s High Court at age 74. Although Gasa had previously completed two bachelor’s degrees and a teaching certificate, he proved that it is truly never too late to learn something new. And he’s not done yet – Gasa has his eyes set on opening his own law firm one day.

Related: Ten post-retirement second acts

High altitude sports

Yuichiro Miura, born on October 12, 1932, began skiing as a child growing up in Japan. His love of winter sports also led him to competing with speed skiing, downhill skiing, and mountain climbing. On May 6, 1970, Miura became the first person to ski on Mount Everest, and in 2003, at the age of 70, he became the oldest climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Not one to hang up his skis, Miura broke the record himself in May 2013 by climbing to the summit again at the age of 80. The adventurer also skied the highest peak in Australia (Mount Kosciusko), the highest peak in North America (Mount McKinley), Mexico’s Mount Popocatepetl, Chile’s Towers of Paine, and Mt. Fuji. In addition to extreme skiing, Miura was also principal of Clark Memorial International High School. “The Godfather of Extreme Skiing” is now 90 years old and lives by the words “Never give up on anything. To keep forward, you must never give up and stick with it to the end.”

Long-distance swimming

In 2013, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim 110 miles from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, at 64 years old. She had previously, on her 30th birthday, set a world record for distance swimming by swimming from the Bahamas to Florida. When asked at age 60 why she began open water training in preparation for her Cuba to Florida swim, she replied that the wanted to “prove to the other 60-year-olds that it is never too late to start your dreams.” In 2014, Nyad was named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year, and performed as a celebrity on “Dancing with the Stars.” Nyad is also an author, journalist, and motivational speaker.

So go ahead and act your age, whatever that means. The sky’s the limit!

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith