What do an artist, a long-distance runner and a body builder all have in common? For starters, they are all women at the top of their game and they are all over 80 years young. While some of us act old at 30, other people manage to keep their spirit young throughout their entire life and they don’t let their age define them. The three women that are profiled here not only are amazing at what they do but they achieved their success later in life proving that it is never too late to be your best self!
Painter Carmen Herrera is now 103 and she has been painting since the late 1940s. However, she did not sell her first painting until she was 89. In 2016, she also had her first museum exhibition in almost two decades at the Whitney Museum in New York. Although her commercial success did not come until later in life, she was always driven to continue by her love of ideas and “the straight line” as she told the New York Times in 2014. Borrowing from her training as an architect, she has become a recognized master of a particular style of abstract and minimalist painting and now has permanent collections at both the Museum of Modern Art (in New York) and the Tate Modern (in London).
Long-distance runner Ginette Bedard did not run her first marathon until age 69 but she has run every New York marathon since then. She was 72 when she beat the world record for her age group and in 2017, Ginette was the oldest female runner to compete in the NYC marathon at 84 years old. She still regularly trains over three hours a day despite the weather conditions. One neighbor remembers her husband digging out a path so she could run even though there was several feet of snow on the ground. Ginette says that running is “like an addiction for her” and she has no intention of stopping any time soon.
Bodybuilder Ernestine Shepard didn’t even start working out until she was 56. But after the devastating loss of her sister and her subsequent health issues including high blood pressure and panic attacks, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming the world’s oldest body builder. She and her sister had originally conceived the idea together but after her sister passed, she decided to pursue her goal alone. And in 2010, she was declared the world’s oldest living performing bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records. Although no longer competing professionally, she is still practicing her skills at age 82 and also teaches fitness lessons at her own gym where her classes are filled to capacity with people of all ages.
Although most of us will never be a master painter or a record holder in sports, that doesn’t mean that we can’t take inspiration from those seniors that won’t settle for second best. And, although the women that we profiled here have been wildly successful, the true inspiration is that they did not let their age define them. They were not afraid of the hard work involved in perfecting their craft or learning a completely new skill. So, while it is important that we define success on our own terms, we should also take heart in the fact (that like fine wine), we can all get better with age!