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25 People Who Bust Age-Old Myths

They demolish expectations, destroy fake limits and demonstrate that age does not define us

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, 36
    Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

    Lin-Manuel Miranda, 36

    (Composer, Lyricist, Performer)   The score for Hamilton, the biographical musical that’s now the hottest ticket on Broadway, features catchy lyrics created by Miranda, who plays the title role. He has achieved the inconceivable: making preteens dig colonial history while their grandparents groove on hip-hop.   

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  • Diana Nyad, 66, Long-Distance Swimmer
    Photo by Steven Lippman

    Diana Nyad, 66

    (Long-Distance Swimmer) In March, Nyad joined President Barack Obama’s entourage for his historic visit to Cuba. Cool as that was, she would probably consider it her second most exciting visit to the island: In 2013, she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It took her 53 long hours. “I haven’t noticed aging yet,” Nyad said that year. “I’m by far at the peak of my life right now, even physically.”

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  • Yolanda Soto Lopez, 55, Host, All Crafts Channel on YouTube
    Photo by Spencer Lowell

    Yolanda Soto Lopez, 55

    (Host, All Crafts Channel on YouTube) When Soto Lopez uploaded her first YouTube video five years ago, she wasn’t trying to start a business — but that’s what happened. She had been teaching crocheting at church, and she recorded instructions to help her students between lessons. Over time, her how-to channel became so popular that she has built a six-figure revenue from ads, books, patterns and speaking engagements. “I won’t be held back by the myth that when you hit 50, life is over,” she says.

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  • John Ryland, 47
    Photo by Adam Ewing

    John Ryland, 47

    (Founder and Owner, Classified Moto) After a layoff, Ryland turned his hobby into a full-time gig. Classified Moto, a custom-motorcycle shop in Richmond, Va., is five years old and thriving. Ryland came to the business late: “It was now or never.”

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  • Alexandreena Dixon, 70
    Photo courtesy of Alexandreena Dixon

    Alexandreena Dixon, 70

    (Founder, Chiku Awali African Dance, Arts and Culture) 
    Trained in African dance as a child, Dixon put the art form aside until 2003, when she founded a dance troupe in New York state. Chiku Awali has grown to offer community activities. Now retired, Dixon logs more than full-time hours at the nonprofit and calls this “time worth spending.”

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  • Howard Schultz, 62, CEO of Starbucks
    Photo by Joao Canziani

    Howard Schultz, 62

    (CEO, Starbucks) Schultz built the Starbucks coffee shop chain back in the 1980s and retired as CEO in 2000. But in 2008, Starbucks saw its global growth slow, and Schultz returned to the helm. Now sales are once again steaming hot. Is anything different in his second go-round as top bean? “My drive to preserve and enhance what we’d created became higher,” he says.

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  • Michael Rudolph, 79
    Photo courtesy of Michael Rudolph

    Michael Rudolph, 79

    (Author, Noble Chase) Though he enjoyed his 50-year career in corporate law, Rudolph switched to full-time fiction writing about four years ago, after his wife and sailing partner, Elizabeth, became ill and began to need ongoing at-home care. Thus was born Noble Chase, a crime thriller released in April.

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  • Wayne Shorter, 82, Jazz Saxophonist and Composer
    Photo by Robert Ascroft

    Wayne Shorter, 82

    (Jazz Saxophonist and Composer) He long ago attained icon status as an improviser. But Shorter’s true artistic contribution, experts say, is to demolish the barriers between jazz and classical music. His latest symphonic composition, The Unfolding, will premiere in September. At 82, birthdays mean little to Shorter, who says, “When people ask how old I am, I tell them 28.”

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  • Constance Leisure, 65
    Photo by Van Son Huynh

    Constance Leisure, 65

    (Author, Amour Provence) She always wanted to publish a novel, but writing about the U.S. while raising a family in France didn’t work. After 20 years, Leisure switched her setting to France and everything clicked. Her novel, Amour Provence, comes out in July. “I think I needed that seasoning and all those years to be able to do this,” she notes.

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  • Ned Overend, 60, Cycling Champion
    Photo by Dave Lauridsen

    Ned Overend, 60

    (Cycling Champion) At 60, many bicycle racers sit back and relive their glory days. But Overend is still winning titles on the wide-tired all-terrain cycles called fat bikes. With multiple world championships, he continues his training, eats a healthy diet and stays on top of his checkups. “Mentally, you have to be prepared,” he says. “You can’t say, ‘I’m doing well for 60.’ You have to say, ‘I’m going to do as well as I possibly can.’ ”

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  • Andrés Ruzo, 55
    Photo courtesy of Andres Ruzo

    Andrés Ruzo, 55

    (Founder and CEO, LinkAmerica) About 10 years ago, the company Ruzo had created nearly failed. Rather than file for bankruptcy, he shifted LinkAmerica away from telephone product sales and toward telecom services and support. Today, the company’s revenues top $200 million. Ruzo’s business advice: “It’s a journey. It’s not a sprint.”

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  • Frances Hesselbein, 100
    Photo by Michele Mattei

    Frances Hesselbein, 100

    (President and CEO, Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute) "Age is irrelevant,” says Hesselbein, who has helped train nonprofit leaders for more than 50 years. “It is what we do with our lives that counts.” Her winning habits? “First, listening. It’s called respect,” she says. “Second, being on time. I grew up in the mountains of western Pennsylvania, where 5:30 means 5:30.”

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  • A caucasian middle aged couple eat popcorn in movie theater with text that reads keep life fun and your calendar full.

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  • Elizabeth Dole, 79, Founder Elizabeth Dole Foundation
    Photo by Olivier Douliery

    Elizabeth Dole, 79

    (Founder, Elizabeth Dole Foundation) Former U.S. Senator Dole felt moved to help the caregivers of wounded warriors. In 2012, she established a foundation to identify and fill their unmet needs. Dole believes that serving others is the most rewarding way to live. “You can’t outgrow the call to help,” she says.

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  • Judith Sheindlin, 73
    Photo courtesy of CBS

    Judith Sheindlin, 73

    (Host, Judge Judy) One of the world’s highest-paid television personalities, Sheindlin says that the main aim of her show is to encourage people to take responsibility for their actions. She pays closer attention to her health since she suffered a ministroke in 2011. “It was a very good lesson,” she has said.

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  • Don Roy King, 68
    Photo courtesy of Don King

    Don Roy King, 68

    (Director, Saturday Night Live) King juggles the weekly insanity of directing a live comedy show where the cast is young but crew members are as old as 92. “I like my age,” the six-time Emmy winner says. “I don’t hide the fact that I’ve been around longer than most. In fact, I’m kind of proud of it.”

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  • Susan Nordman, 61
    Photo by Craig Dilger

    Susan Nordman, 61

    (Owner, Erda Handbags) “Serial entrepreneur” Nordman retired to Maine but soon tired of leisure. “It really hit home that I needed a purpose,” she says. Then, in 2013, she visited Erda, a struggling handbag manufacturer located a couple of hours north. She fell in love with the colorful bags made by Erda’s employees, all women over 50. Nordman and her husband bought the firm to save it. Rather than uproot Erda’s workers, the couple moved north.

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  • David Vaughan, 62
    Photo by Ian Shive/Tandem Stock

    David Vaughan, 62

    (Executive Director, Mote Tropical Research Laboratory) Coral reefs are dying, and coral expert Vaughan was becoming despondent. Then, in 2008, he accidentally discovered “microfragmentation,” which helps coral grow much faster than normal. Now his lab is speed-growing coral to rebuild reefs, and Vaughan has a new sense of purpose.

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  • Colonel Frederick Lough, 67, Deputy Chair of Surgery Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
    Photo by Andrew Propp

    Col. Frederick Lough, 67

    (Deputy Chair of Surgery, Uniformed Services Univ. of the Health Sciences) “Change is threatening,” says Lough, “but it’s also how we grow. You need to repot yourself somehow.” Lough’s “repotting” came in 2007, when the West Point graduate —  then a successful cardiac surgeon — followed a patriotic urge to rejoin the Army as a reservist. After two tours providing care in Afghanistan, he enlisted for active duty to train the next generation of military surgeons. “If the Army asked me to be deployed again, I would absolutely go,” he adds.

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  • Francine LeFrak, 67
    Photo courtesy of Francine LeFrak

    Francine LeFrak, 67

    (Founder, Same Sky Foundation) By 2007, LeFrak had spent eight years trying to produce a film on the Rwandan genocide. That film was never finished, but LeFrak’s heart remained with female survivors of the 1994 atrocity, many of whom had contracted HIV through rape. So she started Same Sky, an online jewelry business that employs these survivors as artisans. “It is the irony of my life,” she says. “I started a business to help women living in extreme poverty, and it enriched and transformed my life.”

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  • Sherwin Sheik, 38
    Photo courtesy of Sherwin Sheik

    Sherwin Sheik, 38

    (President and CEO, CareLinx) Sheik’s family endured a 20-year struggle to find good, affordable caregivers for loved ones with MS and ALS. His answer in 2011 was to found CareLinx, today a leader in the growing industry of caregiver-patient matchmaking. “We’re all going to need help if we live long enough,” Sheik notes. “And it doesn’t have to be difficult to find it.”

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  • John Andrew, 85
    Photo by Eric Williams

    John Andrew, 85

    (Itinerant Skier) There are over 700 ski resorts in North America, and Andrew has skied at 528 of them. He plans to hit the rest before long. His mountainous quest began 20 years ago, after he retired from his job as a Boeing executive. Prostate cancer treatments temporarily slowed him down, he says. Now, though, “I seem to get stronger every year.”

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  • The Reverend Richard Joyner, 62
    Photo by Aurora Rose/AP

    The Rev. Richard Joyner, 62

    (Founder, Conetoe Family Life Center) After several untimely deaths and major health problems among his North Carolina congregants, Joyner began a youth farming initiative in 2007. The nonprofit teaches nutrition and raises healthy produce. “When we started, we didn’t have cash capital,” Joyner says. “But we had human capital.”

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  • Aria Finger, 33
    Photo courtesy of Aria Finger

    Aria Finger, 33

    (CEO, Finger helms a 5.2-million-member global organization for young people who want to work for social change. Three years ago, partnered with AARP Foundation to pair tech-savvy young people with elders who want to learn those skills. To Finger, aging means opportunity: “I can’t even imagine how much I’m going to learn over the next 10 years.”

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  • Howard Tischler, 62
    Photo courtesy of Howard Tischler

    Howard Tischler, 62

    (Founder and CEO, EverSafe) After his mom fell victim to a financial scammer, Tischler founded EverSafe to protect other elders. Launched in 2014, the service lets users link their bank and investment accounts, credit cards and credit reports, which the company scans daily for suspicious activity. 

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  • Kenneth Shinozuka, 17, Inventor, Safewander
    Photo by Christopher Lane

    Kenneth Shinozuka, 17

    (Inventor, SafeWander) At 15, Shinozuka developed a wearable sensor that alerts a caregiver when the wearer gets out of bed. Today, his SafeWander sensors bring many families of wandering Alzheimer’s patients’ peace of mind. Shinozuka says he doesn’t feel limited by his youth: “Owning your age is to act as if you didn’t have any age.”

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Contributions by Meghan Bogardus Cortez, Christina Ianzito, Brennen Jensen, Alanna Nash, Kimberly Palmer, Garrett Schaffel

AARP Salutes Col. Frederick Lough