Success stories of the over-80s

It’s possible to achieve your dreams right into old age and this has been evidenced in a recent article rounding up elderly high-achievers. From writing books to completing triathlons, the piece in The Guardian looks at octogenarians, nonagenarians and even centenarians to document their incredible achievements.

Among those profiled is Margaret Ford, who has become the oldest author in Britain to pen a debut book. Despite being 93, she has hinted that A Daughter’s Choice could have a follow-up, as it only covers her life up until 1946, when she married her husband Jim.

Mrs Ford said: “For a while I was concerned about what readers might think of me. My family isn’t perfect, and neither am I, but I laid it all bare. Writing it all down was liberating really; it taught me not to care.”

At the age of 93, Giuseppe Paterno enrolled on an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy at the University of Palermo. Three years later he graduated top of his class and described feeling like a little boy, despite the ceremony taking place just six weeks before his 97th birthday.

Sister Madonna Buder is now 90 and over the years has completed 400 triathlons, of which 45 have been Ironmans. She even gained herself the nickname ‘Iron Nun’ and finished her final Ironman at the age of 82. Her current exercise regime consists of a half-mile swim, a 20-mile bike ride and a three-mile run, which she typically likes to undertake after Mass.

She said: “I’m older, but I don’t want to be less active. I could do it before; why not now? Granted, I cover less ground than I used to.”

Two months after turning 100, Lisel Heise was elected to the council in the German town of Kirchheimbolanden. Inspired by her father’s political career in the 1930s after he had stood up against the French occupation, she has found she commands a lot of respect and works to improve the health of people of all ages locally.

Starting on the route to become an attorney at the age of 60 is quite unusual, but that’s exactly what Emmanuel Gasa decided to do. He’s now 76 and spent 11 years completing his legal qualifications while still finding time for his 15 grandchildren. He now hopes to open his own practice in Pretoria where he lives.

Natalie Levant freely admits that the pastimes associated with the elderly, such as knitting and going on cruises, simply aren’t for her. Instead, she spends her time at the age of 89 entertaining audiences as a comedian. She often includes the topic of ageing in her sets, with a fair amount of self-deprecation and a few tips for doing it gracefully.