Ernestine Shepherd didn't start exercising until she was 56 -- she was even allowed to sit out of gym classes as a child because of an injury she got in a car crash. But that didn't stop this former school secretary from hitting the weights. Eventually, she started training for a bodybuilding competition at age 71. She won, and was eventually awarded the Guinness World Record for being the oldest competitive female body builder in the world.
21 Seniors Who Found Their Passion Later in Life
Most people opt to slow down in their golden years, but not everyone. For some, retirement is the perfect time to nab a part-time job to stay busy and earn a little extra income. For others, getting older means finally being able to pursue a long-held passion -- or unearth a new one they never expected. From average Joes to famous faces, here are 21 people who found success later in life once they decided to try something new.
One of the most famous fast-food magnates in the world, Harland Sanders was running a simple service station in Kentucky at age 40. He then opened a single restaurant across the street to better serve hungry travelers. On the menu, of course, was fried chicken -- and it was so tasty that he was made a Kentucky colonel by the governor in 1935. But the idea wouldn't explode into KFC until 1952, when Sanders closed his original restaurant and started franchising his chicken restaurants when he was 62.
Fauja Singh decided to run after the death of his wife and son. It was an unlikely choice, given that he'd had a birth defect that kept him from walking until age 5. Making it unlikelier still: He was already in his late 80s. But no matter: He ran his first marathon at age 89, then clocked a personal best of five hours and 50 minutes at age 92. He went on to be a torchbearer in two Olympics, Athens in 2004 and London in 2012, and became the first 100-year-old to run a marathon in 2011.
Julia Child began her career in advertising, then worked in government intelligence during World War II. She was well into her 30s before she moved to Paris and adopted French cuisine as her own. It wasn't until 1961, at just shy of 50, that she would find a publisher for her famous cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." After that, she became a fixture on public television and was eventually the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame.
A homebuilder who had dabbled in instrument building as a hobby, Jay Lichty was in his 50s when he decided to shift gears during the recession. In 2009, he went full-time with Lichty Guitars, a business he runs today with his wife out of his North Carolina home. They've shipped custom guitars and ukuleles all over the world, and Lichty tells CNBC that business has been very steady, with sales comparable to his home-building business.
A familiar face from shows including "Desperate Housewives" and "The West Wing," Kathryn Joosten spent much of her life as a psychiatric nurse. But after a divorce left her a single mother with two young sons, she vowed to pursue her dream. A decade later, she became a street performer at Disney World and later moved to Hollywood, where her most notable roles wouldn't come until her 60s.
Wally Blume decided to use more than three decades of experience in the dairy industry to found his own company, Denali Flavors, when he was 54. The company makes ice cream flavors for many store brands, and its most popular variety, Moose Tracks, remains a runaway hit today. Blume later expanded into a second business, Denali Ingredients, and has resisted retirement as his enterprises continue to rake in millions.
Author of the autobiographical "Little House on the Prairie" series, Laura Ingalls Wilder became a teacher at the tender age of 15, but spent most of her adult life tending a farm and family. She wouldn't really take up writing until her 40s, and faced several rounds of rejections for her first attempts at chronicling her childhood on the frontier. She finally broke through with "Little House in the Big Woods" in 1932, when she was well into her 60s. She continued to write "Little House" books for the next decade.
It's hard to believe Ray Kroc didn't spend his entire life building the fast-food empire that is McDonald's, but he spent much of his career as a salesman of paper cups and milkshake machines. It was on one of his shake-machine visits that he was inspired by Dick and Mac McDonald's burger restaurant in California, offering to franchise the concept around the country. That was in 1954, when Kroc was in his early 50s. Within five years, there were 100 McDonald's restaurants, and Kroc soon purchased the company outright in the early '60s. The rest, of course, is McHistory.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses, spent much of her life on farms in Virginia and New York, tending animals and raising five children. While she dabbled in painting a bit, she didn't take it up seriously until her husband died in 1927, when she was well into her 60s. Even so, she didn't attract much notoriety until 1938, when an art collector spotted some of her paintings in a local store. After that, her paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art and she developed a following. She would live until 101 and paint around 1,500 pieces of art.
As Yale Law graduates and corporate attorneys, Tim and Nina Zagat were plenty successful already. But in the 1970s, when they started informally surveying friends about their opinions of Manhattan restaurants, their career in law was bolstered by a new passion for creating local guidebooks. The effort grew steadily but didn't fully pay off until 2000, when they were 60 and 58, respectively, and found investors for their efforts. Today, they are millionaires several times over, as Google bought Zagat in 2011 for $151 million.
Jeffrey Nash was doing pretty well as a salesman for a national men's clothing retailer, but then recession hit -- and so did an idea. At 58, he designed and unveiled the Juppy, a handheld sling that parents use to help their babies learn to walk. Cobbling together enough cash to fund his nascent business required sacrifices, including a smaller house and a less luxurious car, but he's told The New York Times that demand is strong.
Leo Goodwin Sr. was an accountant before he started dabbling in the insurance industry. His idea -- revolutionary at the time -- was that he could bring down costs by selling directly to certain customers. In 1936, around age 50, he decided to found the Government Employees Insurance Company, better known as GEICO. The company took four years to turn a profit, but after that, its success skyrocketed. Today, it's owned by Berkshire Hathaway and is one of the largest car insurance companies in the nation.
When Carol Gardner got a divorce at the age of 52, she heeded her attorney's advice to find some love with a new kind of companion: a dog. She chose a 4-month-old English bulldog and named the pup Zelda. After a picture of Zelda won a pet-food contest at a local store and drew raves from friends in a holiday card, Gardner knew she had something special on her hands. The former advertising director created Zelda Wisdom, and the company has made millions selling greeting cards, calendars, books, and other merchandise ever since.
For most of his adult life, Duncan Hines had nothing much to do with cake. He was a traveling salesman for a printing company, a job that had him crisscrossing the United States -- and eating constantly at restaurants. That inspired him to self-publish a book, "Adventures in Good Eating," in 1936, when he was 55. He became such a successful restaurant critic by the time he was in his 70s that his name was slapped on foods including ice cream and, of course, cake mix.
Like many British men who came of age around World War II, Richard Adams spent some time in the military, then joined the civil service while he raised a family. But it was a story he told his girls during a car ride, about a bunch of rabbits in search of a new home, that would eventually make him famous. He put pen to paper and wrote "Watership Down," published in 1972 when he was in his 50s. It went on to sell millions of copies, officially kicking off his career as a prolific novelist.
Ronald Reagan's success on the world stage sometimes obscures the fact that he didn't get into politics until he was in his 50s. Until then, as most know, he was a prominent actor who got his start as a sports announcer. Also easy to forget is that Reagan aimed for and missed the Republican nomination for president twice, once in 1968 and once in 1976, before he was finally successful in 1980. When he was elected at age 69, he was the oldest president to take office. (That's a record he recently lost to Donald Trump, who took office at 70.)
Mommy Choi, a native of South Korea, came to the U.S. to attend art school, but ended up staying when she fell in love. She raised two children -- one of whom would become chef Roy Choi, who got his start with a gourmet Korean taco truck -- and ran a restaurant to help support the family. But after her kids were grown, at age 71, she decided to try her own hand at becoming an entrepreneur. That led to her new business, Mommy Sauce, which sells Korean-inspired sauces online and at groceries in Southern California.
Roget spent most of his life as a physician and a teacher, but he also struggled with depression. One way that he coped? By making long lists that he used to categorize and classify words and their synonyms and antonyms. It was this habit, of course, that would eventually make him famous. In his early 70s, he published the first edition of the now eponymous Roget's Thesaurus. It's never been out of print since and has sold tens of millions of copies.
A teacher who at one point taught 10 grades in a one-room schoolhouse, Kotelko was an athletic child but didn't take up sports seriously again until she was retired. A stint in a slow-pitch softball league led her to dabble in track and field at age 77, but her training quickly turned serious. Eventually, she earned nearly two dozen world records in her age category, in events including shot put, long jump and javelin.
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