14 Stories of people who only made it AFTER they were 60

Youre never too old to DreamI am 61 years of age.  There I said it.  My birthday was five weeks ago.  Recently, I was talking to my orthopaedic surgeon who is 65 and he has no intention of retiring soon.  He introduced me to a patient who was leaving.  He is 88 and is going to Zambia next week to continue his missionary work.  As part of what I do here in The Synergy Group and DPNlive, I carry out research.  That got me looking at people who really only made it in business after they were 60.

Life doesn’t end at 60 or even when you retire, in reality, it should only be starting.  You have a lifetime of experience behind you and you could keep going until you end up in the box.  I would like to think that I will keep going.

There is a theory that if you keep yourself active, both mind and body, it will keep you young.  There are many people who are proving that theory.

I decided to research people who have really only made it AFTER they were 60.  Every one of the people in this article received huge setbacks and rejections, but they kept going.  Being human, they thought about giving up but didn't. They kept their dreams alive and continued to struggle for what they wanted. They didn't allow age to limit their dreams and neither should you.

John Greenleaf Whittier said “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.” Don’t allow yourself to say "I should have tried."

I will look at people who have continued after 60 in another article. 

You can dip in and out of this article as often as you wish.  So here goes:

Frank Finlay, 69 – Northern Ireland.Horticulturalist to Chef.

Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.” Don’t allow yourself to say
"I should have tried."

Frank started as an apprentice fitter at 16 and then joined the army at 18.  He was building bridges and roads, and he was a plant and bulldozer operator.  In times when he wasn’t doing that he worked in the kitchens.

Six years later he left and got a job in a chemical factory and then as a groundsman, park supervisor and manager.  He retired at 59.  He said “but no way could I just take it easy – I would die”.

There is only so much gardening, fishing and golf he could do. His mind was still racing.

At 61, he trained as a horticulture assessor and started to teach.  He resurrected the horticultural class at the local high school and started teaching 14 year-olds and also people with learning disabilities. He was teaching 19 hours per week plus preparation time.  And from my training experience, I know that preparation time takes as long if not longer that actual teaching time.

At 62, he got married for the second time, began working in a B&B serving breakfasts at 6.30am and then to college at 10.30am.  He did a City & Guilds course in cooking at 63 (they were all 17 and 18 year-olds in the class and he felt out place – for about one minute).

He now cooks the breakfasts in the B&B and is thinking of going to Rwanda.  “I could do a bit of gardening or teaching horticulture. If they need a toilet, I can build that”.

Julie Kertesz, 79 – London.  Chemist to Standup.

Julie KerteszJulie is Hungarian and was living in Transylvania until she was 14.  She wasn’t allowed go to university because of the classist society.  Early in her teens, she got a job as a chemical technician and studied at night. Later, she got her PhD when she was 27.  She got married and had to stop studying because her husband didn’t have a degree and he didn’t like it. 

They moved to France and she divorced at 41.  Then she moved to USA with her children.

She moved back to Paris and got a job selling computers.  For the second time, she got married at 55 and got pushed out of her job at 60 because of office politics.

She kept a diary through her life and translated them into French and published them as a blog, There is Life After 70.

When she was 70, her husband met another woman and divorced her.

To add on to her ability to write stories, she decided to join Toastmasters and learn how to tell them.  Then she went to a standup comedy workshop.  She felt totally out of place because they were all young boys at it.  When she said "Why the fuck am I doing this shit at my age?" they laughed and accepted her.

Now she does standup almost every week and they love her.  She was only heckled once.

She coaches people in storytelling and earned a Toastmasters International Gold Award as an Advanced Communicator.  “I feel younger now than I felt at 70 or even 65. Somehow then I felt my life was finished and now I feel there's so much I can do to help people”.

Frank McCourt. Became a best-selling author at 66.

Frank McCourtFrank was an Irish-American and was born in Brooklyn New York.  His father was from Antrim and his mother, Angela, from Limerick.  He had four siblings. During the Great Depression in the US, they moved back to Ireland.  His father became an alcoholic and they then moved to Limerick.  They lived in a one bed slum with a leaky roof and his father drank all the money. 

During WW2, his father went to Coventry for work and eventually left his family. Frank’s mother tried to raise the family as best she could. Frank was kicked out of school at 13 by the Christian Brothers and he picked up odd jobs and stole to provide for his family.

At 19, Frank left Ireland for New York.  There are two stories as to where he got the money. One is that he saved it and the other is that he stole it from a money lender who died.

He got a job earning $26 per week and he sent $10 home to his mother. Eventually, his mother and siblings joined him in New York.

Having blagged his way into New York University he graduated at 27 with a degree in English.  He began teaching, got a Masters at 37 from Brooklyn and failed to get a PhD in Trinity College Dublin.

At 66, he won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography (1997) and one of the annual National Book Critics Circle Awards (1996) for his 1996 memoir Angela's Ashes, which details his impoverished childhood from Brooklyn, NY to Limerick, Ireland. It was a bestseller and made him a millionaire. Three years later, a movie version of Angela's Ashes opened to mixed reviews. At 69, Frank wrote 'Tis (1999), which continues the narrative of his life, picking up from the end of Angela’s Ashes and focusing on his life after he returned to New York. He subsequently wrote Teacher Man (2005) which detailed his rich experiences and the challenges of being a teacher.

Frank died on 19th July 2009 at 79.

A.C. BhaktivedantaSwami SrilaPrabhupada restarted his life at 69.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami PrabhupadaHis Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born in 1896 and he died at 81 in 1977.  He is known as the world's most prominent contemporary authority on bhakti-yoga, devotional service to the Supreme Person, Krishna, as taught by the ancient Vedic writings of India. In addition, he is the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

For 40 years, he struggled to preach the philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's message of Krishna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world.

When he was 69, with only 40 rupees, he went to New York. There, he introduced "India's message of peace and goodwill" to the western world. During the last twelve years of his life, Srila Prabhupada inspired thousands of Westerners and Indians to devote their lives to Krishna consciousness, launching one of the fastest-growing spiritual movements in the history of the world.  In 1977, he founded ISKCON, a society founded on a type of Hindu Krishnaism.

During the last 11 years of his life, he travelled the world 14 times and his writings were translated into 76 languages. In February 2014, ISKCON's news agency reported that they reached a milestone of distributing over half a billion books authored by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, since 1965.

Mary Delaney invented paper collage at 72.

Mary Delaney's paper collage.  Left to right: Papaver somniferum, the Opium Poppy (1776); Passiflora laurifolia, Bay Leaved (1777); detail of Carduus nutans, Musk or Nodding Thistle (1776). So accurate they are still studied by botanists today, these beautiful 18th-century 'flower mosaicks' were the creation of Mary DelanyMary was born in 1700 and died in 1788.  She married at 17 into an arranged marriage.  Her aged husband died when she was 24.  She took painting lessons and was friends with Jonathan Swift and George Handel.  When she was 43, she married an Irishman, Patrick Delaney, and they lived near Dublin. 

Patrick died when she was 68. She then began spending her summers with the Duchess of Portland at Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire. It was here that she developed her remarkable series of flower collages that were bequeathed to The British Museum by her descendent Lady Llanover in 1895. Through the Duchess of Portland, she became acquainted with King George III and Queen Charlotte who provided her with a house in Windsor in her last years.

Her skill was such that the great eighteenth-century botanist Sir Joseph Banks declared that these collages were ‘the only imitations of nature that he had ever seen from which he could venture to describe botanically any plant without the least fear of committing an error'.

Daphne Selfe, 83, England.  Film extra to Model.

Daphne SelfeDaphne worked in a riding school in her teens and in a department store at 20. She took a three week modelling class and got some work.  In addition, she learned dance and joined the Buddy Bradley show.

She got married and had three children.  In those days, you didn’t work when you got married, but her husband didn’t earn a lot, so she worked as an extra on films, about 400 of them.

Her husband died when she was 69 and she spoke to her agent about different work. He got her work as a walk-in in a fashion show. The other models were not intimidated by her because of her age.

“People think you earn a lot of money as a model; you don't. But I am just happy to work; it's good to use your mind. And I am all for trying something new. I have my physical limitations – I can't wear high heels now, for instance. But in my mind I am about 35.”

Wyn Sheryn, England.  Teacher to furniture maker at 76.

Wyn SherynWyn trained as a music teacher when he was 23 in 1958.  He got married and had three children.  Then, he then trained as a PE teacher and worked at that for ten years.

Teaching was not well paid and he was unhappy so he got a job as an education advisor. Then he moved to Peterborough and got a job designing the town.  After that, he got a job in Preston as director of leisure services.  He retired at 52 with a severance package.

Retirement was not for him so he got a job in a business school.  When he was 58 he did a series of City and Guilds courses that lasted for the next 16 years in furniture making.

Then he started making furniture for family and friends.

“I'm so glad I have done something new. You can never challenge your brain enough”.

Laura Ingalls Wilder. Wrote the ‘Little House’ series of books at 65.

Laura Ingalls WilderLaura was born in 1867 and died in 1957.From 1882 to 1885 she was a teacher in South Dakota. She married Almanzo Wilder in 1885.

Her daughter encouraged her to write about her childhood in the 1910’s.  Laura spent about ten years writing.  She called her book Pioneer Girl, but publishers rejected it. As a result, she spent the next few years reworking her writing, including switching the title and changing the story to be told from the first-person perspective.

When she was 67, she published Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in what would become an autobiographical series of children's books, collectively called the "Little House" books.  Her daughter joined her in her writing and they developed the "Little House" series including Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years. Laura completed the last book in the "Little House" series in 1943, when she was 76 years old.



Fauja Singh. Became a marathon runner at 89.

Fauja SinghFauja was born in India in 1911 and couldn’t walk until he was five.  I can’t find much about his early life, except to say that he was a farmer in Punjab.

When he was 83 in 1994, his fifth son died in a construction accident and in 1992, his wife and daughter died.

In order to give himself focus, he took up running at 89 and started training. For his first training session, he arrived in a three-piece suit. He ran the London Marathon in 2000.  When he was 93, he did a marathon in 6 hours 54 minutes, - 58 minutes quicker than anyone in the 90+ bracket.  He ran a total of eight marathons.

At 101, he finished the Hong Kong 10km (6.25 mile) event in one hour, 32 minutes and 28 seconds.

He became the oldest full marathon runner after finishing the 2011 Toronto marathon when he was 100. But his feat was not recognised by Guinness Book of Records because he does not have a birth certificate to prove his age - only a passport.

He died at 102 years of age.

Colonel Harland Sanders. Established Kentucky Fried Chicken chain at 65.

Colonel Harland SandersHarland Sanders was born in 1890. When he was six, his father died and his mother had to go out to work and he had to take care of his siblings, including cooking.

Before he became a world-famous Colonel, he was a sixth-grade dropout, a farmhand, an army mule-tender, a locomotive fireman, a railroad worker, an aspiring lawyer, an insurance salesman, a ferryboat entrepreneur, a tyre salesman, an amateur obstetrician, an unsuccessful political candidate, a gas station operator, a motel operator and finally, a restaurateur.

At 40, he was a gas station operator and he identified a need to provide food to hungry travellers.  Therefore, he started cooking for them and they ate it on his own dining room table.  He called it Sunday Dinner, Seven Days a Week.

In 1935, Governor Ruby Laffoon made him a Kentucky Colonel in recognition of his contributions to the state's cuisine. Within four years, his establishment was listed in Duncan Hines' “Adventures in Good Eating.”

His business grew and he had to move it across the street because people were coming for the food and not the gas.It was here that he perfected his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices and the basic cooking technique that is still used today.

When he was 65, he was happy with the quality of his food and he decided to turn it into a franchise operation. Within ten years, he sold 600 KFC franchises.  At 74, he sold the US Company for $2 million.

He kept working until he died at 90 of leukaemia, travelling 250,000 miles pa.

Harry Louis Bernstein.  Had a book published at 96.

Harry Louis BernsteinHarry was born in 1910 and died in 2011.  He was a British born American writer. During his life, he worked for various movie production companies, reading scripts and working as a magazine editor for trade magazines. He also wrote freelance articles for such publications as Popular Mechanics, Family Circle and Newsweek.

In the 1930s, late one Friday afternoon, he was given a thick manuscript and a Monday morning deadline. Looking forward to his weekend, Harry gave it a brief perusal, and dismissed it as "just another historical romance. There were dozens of them, more trash." The book was Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind.  He lost his job.  And he got another job with another studio.

He retired at 62 and he lived with his wife, Ruby Umflat, who died at 91, after 67 years of marriage.

In order to help him grieve for his wife, at 93, he decided to return to his writings.  He wrote about the memories of his rough childhood spent battling his alcoholic father and anti-Semitism in England.He described how the butcher’s wife humiliated his impoverished mother as she queued for meat she could not pay for.How she grovelled under a fruit and vegetable stall for spoiled produce that she took home to feed her family. Harry's mother set up her own greengrocer's shop in her front room, using old packing cases as a counter, which became a local centre for gossip, oiled by the sour milk drunk by her Jewish neighbours.

His first published book, The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers, dealt with his long suffering mother Ada's struggles to feed her six children; an abusive, alcoholic father; the anti-Semitism Harry and his Jewish neighbours encountered growing up in a Cheshire mill town in northwest England; the loss of Jews and Christians from the community in World War I; and the Romeo and Juliet-like romance experienced by his sister Lily and her Christian boyfriend.

The book was started when Harry was 93 and published in 2007, when he was 96.

After The Invisible Wall, he wrote The Dream (published in 2008) and The Golden Willow (published in 2009).  What Happened to Rose was published in 2012 after he died.

His books were translated and sold into Sweden, Germany, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Brazil.

He said “You've got to be taught to hate. You've got to be taught from the time you're six or seven or eight. It's put in your mind. It's handed down, almost like an heirloom, among Christians. They didn't know why they hated us."

He died at 101.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses.  Became a folk artist and cultural icon at 78.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses. Grandma Moses.She was known as Grandma Moses.  Born in 1860 and died in 1961.

She had very little education and at 12, she left her parents’ farm and worked as a hired girl until she married Thomas Moses in 1887.  They farmed together until Thomas died in 1927.  She continued farming with her son until she was physically unable to continue in 1936 at 76.

Throughout her years, she drew pictures and did embroidery. Her art is classified as folk art, which is self-taught art.  At first, she copied illustrated postcards prints.  Slowly she began to re-create scenes from her childhood, as in Apple Pickers (1940), Sugaring-Off in the Maple Orchard (1940), Catching the Thanksgiving Turkey (1943), and Over the River to Grandma’s House (1944).  She gave away her early paintings and others were sold for small sums. In 1939, Louis Caldor, an engineer and art collector, was impressed when he saw several of her paintings hanging in a drugstore window. He drove to her farm and bought her remaining stock of 15 paintings. In October of that year, three of those paintings were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in a show titled “Contemporary, Unknown Painters.”

From the beginning, Grandma Moses’s work received good criticism. In October 1940, a one-woman show of 35 paintings was held at Galerie St. Etienne in New York. Thereafter, her paintings were shown throughout the United States and Europe in some 150 solo shows and 100 group exhibits. Throughout her lifetime, Grandma Moses produced about 2,000 paintings.

She couldn’t understand why her paintings sold for such high prices. When she was 80, paintings which she first sold for about $5 later fetched $8,000 to $10,000.

She appeared on the Edward R. Murrow television show and showed people how to paint a picture. Presidents and governors honoured her. Several books have been written about her. A "Grandma Moses Day" was proclaimed in New York. Her picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1953.

When she was 100, she painted illustrations for "Twas the Night Before Christmas".

She died at age 101.

Carolyn May, 61 Wales. Education Manager to Entrepreneur.

Carolyn MayCarolyn worked for 26 years as a teacher, head of department, head of faculty and finally, professional development manager. She felt frustrated because she couldn't take on new opportunities because she was working full time.

At 58, she took voluntary redundancy.  She looked at setting up a company helping older people to change direction. One man, who was 65 and could not get another job, said to her: "I have so much left to offer." And that was where the name of her company came from, Still Much To Offer.

She retrained in the Recruitment and Employment Federation in London and quickly discovered that you don’t make a lot of money from older people because you have to give away a lot of free advice. So she setup a business-to-business side too. She recruits for companies and also does training.  Her website went live when she was 60.

She didn’t realise how difficult sales and marketing was and she had a few personal challenges to adjust to.

“It's a fabulous time to change things, though. It's like a second chance, a new beginning. You are just like someone starting out in their 20s. You get employers who think younger people will be more enthusiastic and find challenges easier. But older people are often looking for something new to do and want a new challenge.”

Estelle Scher-Gettleman. Got fame in The Golden Girls at 63.

Estelle Scher-GettlemanShe was better known as Estelle Getty Born in New York to Polish immigrants in 1923 and died in 2008 at 85.  Estelle married Arthur Gettleman in 1947 and he died in 2004.

While working as a waitress in the Catskills, Estelle tried her hand at stand-up comedy but found the audiences unreceptive to a female comic. She later took a job as a secretary while trying to find work as an actor.

When she married Arthur, she took a few years off to be with her children.

Then she performed in Yiddish theatres and touring productions.  She appeared in Torch Song Trilogy, Cagney and Lacey, Hotel and Newhart as well as playing Cher’s mother in Mark.

When she was 62 she played SophiaPetrillo in The Golden Girls. In the show, she acted as Bea Arthur's mother, even though they were very close in age. Estelle wore a wig and learned to carry herself as an older person. She was so convincing that people were often shocked to learn that she was only in her sixties, not her eighties.

In 1987, she appeared in Mannequin and in 1992 with Sylvester Stallone in Stop or My Mom will Shoot.  Later she appeared in Touched by an Angel, Mad about You and in 1999 in Stuart Little.

Estelle was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. With some assistance, she lived at her home in Los Angeles for many years until her death at age 84. She died of natural causes on the morning of 22ndJuly 2008, three days before her 85th birthday.


Here are some links to organisations that assist ‘older’ people. People that society thinks are too old to work, too old to be productive and too old to be effective in the workplace.  Maybe, just too old.





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