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Elderly People Who Inspire Us

Updated on May 30, 2013
Betty White
Betty White | Source

How old is old?

As western populations grow older the task of caring for our elderly increasingly becomes a concern. As life expectancies continue to rise along with a general aging of the population one might want to ask exactly what 'old' is in the first place.

As a young child a teenager seems pretty old, and as a teen it becomes painfully apparent that life ends sometime shortly after our thirtieth birthday.

Thus, as we get older our perceptions and perspectives on what constitutes 'old' also changes.What seemed 'old' not that long ago all of a sudden doesn't seem all that old after all.

Does this then mean that the old adage 'you're only as old as you think you are' is true?

As much as we might wish that was all there was to it, the fact still remains that as we age we start to slow down and break down.At the end of the day the maximum amount of. Time we have on this planet, whether by accident or design is ultimately what is written in our genetic code.Just how much of that time we get to use of course is dependent on everything from the choices we make to whether we have luck on our side, but yes indeed our attitudes and how much we are able to engage life and be engaged by life do also play a factor.It affects not only how long we live, but also (and perhaps more to the point) the quality of that life.

Perhaps that there is what is at the root of the question?It is not our ultimate mortality that gives us pause, but is it rather maybe the fear of our creeping and lingering enfeeblement?

Sir Ian McKellen..

Can old people matter in our society?

With all that can go wrong with our minds and bodies, this is a grim future to consider, which makes it of little wonder that many people fear aging, and sometimes fear and shun the elderly as less capable, less competent and less relevant.

The image of the frail, raspy voiced and stooped over old man is engraved firmly in our minds.The only problem is that while yes this is something that does happen, it also like most broad and sweeping notions about any group of people misses the truth.

One of the more famous and indeed poignant displays of elder competency came during the 1992 Academy awards when a then seventy four year old Jack Pallance dropped to the ground and demonstrated to the world his ability to do pushups one handed.

Now of course most thirty year olds are challenged by that kind of physical exertion, much less a seventy year old.The lesson still remains though that while we may draw closer to the end of our life, it does not mean we should stop living.

Here are a few examples of people who best illustrate how even as we age we can remain active, engaged, competent and relevant, and to maybe inspire you a little as well.


Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen | Source

Sir Ian McKellen

Portraying a legendary and beloved fictional character for whom millions. Have a strong and often deeply personal understanding and attachment can be an intimidating prospect if not an outright recipe for failure.

Unless of course you are Sir Ian McKellen who portrayed two of the twentieth century’s most iconic characters pretty much at the same time.He is both popular and convincing as comicdom’s arch villain 'Magneto' and as JRR Tolkien's 'Gandalf' his delivery of the "You shall not pass" line has vaulted the seventy two year old into the pop culture stratosphere.

His achievements however are not limited to stage and screen as he is openly and proudly gay and a champion of Gay rights, being one of the founders of U.K. GBLT rights group 'Stonewall' 1n 1989.Today it is the largest Gay rights organization in not only the United Kingdom but also all of Europe.When he says “You shall not pass” it maybe applies to homophobia as much as it does to balrogs.


American Congressman Ron Paul
American Congressman Ron Paul | Source

Ron Paul

A twelve time American congressman as well as a veteran and a obstetrician who delivered over four thousand babies during thehis medical career has earned the nickname of 'Dr. No' due to his long held habbit of voting against any and all legislation that is not expressly authorized by the US Constitution.A current contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination the seventy XXX year old would if elected be the oldest person assume the Oval Office, and yet the bulk of his support comes not from older established Republicans, but rather from very enthusiastic and loyal students on American University campuses.

When it was suggested to him that he was too old for the job of President he invited his doubters to join him on a twenty mile bike ride. That would be under the Texas sun, in case you thought you could get off easy.


Betty White
Betty White | Source

Betty White

This former star alum of such classic shows as 'Mary Tyler Moore' and ' The Golden Girls' has recently made history as the oldest guest host ever to appear on legendary sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live.This is in addition to filming an anti-abuse PSA with Shaquille O'Neil and recording a rap video.

She is also well known for her active support of animal rights.

All at the age of eighty nine.What have you done lately?


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II | Source

Her Majesty the Queen (Elizibeth II)

In 1952 at the age of 25 Elizabeth became the Queen of England when she learned of her father's death while on a vacation in Kenya. Five decades later and now eighty five years old, the British monarch still keeps an active daily itinerary, including starting her mornings by reading her mail.

That doesn't seem like very much?

Well how much mail do you think the Queen of much of the world gets?


Lou Reed and Metallica
Lou Reed and Metallica | Source

Lou Reed

With a career that spans over fifty years this sixty nine year old martial arts enthusiast still keeps an active tour schedule.

Just when you think Reed, who has been proclaimed the ' godfather of punk ' might slow down in his old age, goes and cranks it up a notch and records a new album with heavy metal giants Metallica.


Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman | Source

Morgan Freeman

An 'A list' actor who is both respected and popular.This multi-award winning actor has a new movie coming out as we speak, despite having in recent years been in a car accident that.caused him to lose proper use of his hand.

A condition which likely prevents him from piloting his own jet, something this USAF veteran got his public license for at the young age of sixty five.


Congressman Ron Paul riding a bike
Congressman Ron Paul riding a bike | Source


What happens to us as we age is going to be different for each individual.Much of it is written in our DNA, but as these examples show, our attitudes and how we live our lives has a huge impact on our health and vitality and very much so on our quality of life.

Maybe it is time to reflect on how we view our own aging process and our perspective on the elders in our lives.

Do you have a positive image of the elderly?

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    • glassvisage profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      This is great! I am happy to say I loved Betty White in "Golden Girls" before her latest surge in popularity :) "Old people" totally rule. When I ran a marathon, the guy right behind me was 77 years old! Awesome.

    • DDS profile imageAUTHOR

      David Sproull 

      6 years ago from Toronto

      @Akarime31: Thank you! :-) :-)

    • Akarime31 profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I absolutely love love love this hub!! It is very inspirational, specially since I freaked out the other day for thinking that some teenagers were so annoying to me. It made me feel very old. I know that may sound silly but it was the first time I've actually thought like that about teenagers. Just the fact that I realized that these teenagers needed to "grow up" and stop acting stupid made me realize that I was getting old. It was a pretty weird feeling. Any way your hub is a great reminder on how one must live and enjoy life to the fullest - age is nothing but a number.

    • jenb0128 profile image

      Jennifer Bridges 

      6 years ago from Michigan

      Loved it! I love Sir Ian McKellan, both as an actor and as a person. Thanks for the reminder that growing "old" doesn't mean life ends.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      I had to re-read this article and enjoy the research and people you wrote about. Unfortunately Peter Lumetta points out how the rest of us actually live, financially. Hope you and everyone reading can keep a song in their heart!

    • Pikachusif profile image


      7 years ago from Castelia City, Unova

      Fantastic Hubbing, DDS. I greatly look forward to more of this spectacular work from you. You're always as young as you feel, but this could prove to be a problem if you have arthritis.

      -The Yellow Blur, Pikachusif

    • MSantana profile image


      7 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      I love learning and being inspired by other peoples approach to live and living.

    • Rachelle Williams profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      7 years ago from Tempe, AZ

      GRRREAT Hub! I adore Betty White, and I think she is a national treasure.

      Thank you so much for sharing!

    • clark farley profile image

      clark farley 

      7 years ago

      Having once rented a new Lincoln Towncar, I can understand why so many age-enhanced people drive so under-the-speed-limit, with both hands firmly grasping the steering wheel (10 o'clock and 2 o'clock) barely moving in their seat, their heads barely showing over the back of seat/front of the dashboard.

      It is the car! Not the driver.

      Those cars (Lincoln Towncar) are so huge, so badly handling, so un-responsive, it would be suicide to even attempt to drive them any other way.

      Sitting behind the wheel I could barely see the end of the hood. On the highway, it seemed that the car was wider than the travel lane and when I wanted to make a turn, I was certain that minutes elapsed after I pulled on the manhole-sized steering wheel. ( I am not a short person, but the seats in this car were so wide and high that in order to look over my should (backing out of the driveway) I had to turn in my seat, grasp the headrest and chin myself up to see over the top).

      So now when I see a gigantic sedan on the road and all I can see are 2 hands and a glimpse of blue hair, I let them pass out of respect for the driver...a person willing to take the risk in driving such a vehicle.

    • Credence2 profile image


      7 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Nice work, DDS, we are all trying hard to stay 1 step ahead of the grim reaper. Your article reminds us all that this can be done and with grace at that. Voted up

      Check out William Shatner at 80 years old!

    • DDS profile imageAUTHOR

      David Sproull 

      7 years ago from Toronto

      @Sueswan: At 102! Wow that IS a great aunt! :-)

      @Peter Lumetta: Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. However I think your off on Paul's social security policy. he says it should never have been a federal program, and that it is insolvent, but that he would cut what he calls 'militarism'and 'war mongering' to pay for people who had become dependent on the government. I agree though, that seniors should live in dignity.

      @Tillsontitan: Your name is kind of tricky to type..and thank you very much!!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      One of my favorite sayings is "I have to grow old I don't have to grow up." I think that is the crux of your article. Our bodies age but how we handle it is what keeps us young. I really enjoyed your hub. It was well written and your examples were excellent! Voted up.

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image


      7 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      A beautiful and encouraging article, I really enjoyed it. However as it applies to me it is saddening. In my mid-sixties on Social Security I can stay active and as healthy as I can but with cuts in Social Security looming and danger of losing medications that I need. I won't have much to look forward to. All the folks you mention in this wonderful article are wealthy and not dependant on family or retirement funds to stay fit and alive. As a matter of fact Ron Paul would cut off all social welfare from the government if he had his way. Living life to the fullest depends first on if you have a place to live, food to eat (not cat food) and proper medical care. Then, getting older is not so bad without these basics all you are doing is waiting to die. Just look at what is happening in the country, we will invest trillions in War but want to cut our seniors meager supports to pay for it. That is what I am thinking about. Sorry to be so negative but all this is true and real, Thanks,


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi DDS

      My great aunt Margaret lived to 102. She never got old.

      She lived her life to the fullest. She was a kind generous woman with a great sense of humour.

      I have one more name that I would add to your list and that is Sidney Poitier.

      Voted up and awesome!

    • DDS profile imageAUTHOR

      David Sproull 

      7 years ago from Toronto

      @Everyone: Sorry it has taken me a bit to respond, but I have been very busy as my partner has a new CD coming out that has been tasking up big chunks of time.

      Thank you all for some very positive and supportive comments!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      Hi DDS,

      Thank you so much for sharing this gem with us on here.

      Very interesting,I loved it and will vote up up and away.

      I now look forward to reading many more on here by you.

      Take care


    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      When I was 20 yrs old I thought 50 was old. When I was 40 I thought 70 was old. I'm 48 and I think 80 is old. Betty White has proven me wrong! Great hub!!!

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Hi DDS! What an enjoyable, yet informative hub. I have always loved seniors because many have great wit and wisdom. And each of the individuals profiled in your hub certainly can kick some butt!

      Voted up, up and away!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Attitude is the key. I believe a person should just keep on going and doing as much as possible. It doesn't accomplish anything if you sit around and focus on ailments and what you can't do. Stay active!!!!!!! and, as your title says, kick ass!!!!

      Well written hub, Voted up.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love Betty White too Ytsenoh. I love the spunk and fight in our older generations. I really liked this hub. We are never to old to conquer anything. It is just a number. Living a long life depends upon how you want to live your life is what I was told by my Grandma. Who lived to be 91! Voted up on this hub.

    • ytsenoh profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      I loved this hub so much, it earned being voted up (and not solely because I adore Betty White). I believe longevity is increased due to drive and attitude. We're all going to age and depending on how you look at it, we come into the world alone and we'll go out alone, but the influence we leave behind will resound as much as we affected it while we still "live." This hub was well-organized and thought out. It was creative and insightful. Thank you.


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