Courtesy of Carla Hightower, James Patterson & Estella Pyfrom
To celebrate Black History Month, AARP honors African Americans over 50 who are not only making history, but who show us that it is never too late to pursue our dreams, regardless of race, age, gender or disability.
Join us as we salute unsung heroes who achieved something so surprising that we said, “Wow! You did what after age 50?" Check out their inspirational stories and see how they turned their dreams into Real Possibilities.
Courtesy of Carla Hightower
Carla Hightower, M.D., a former anesthesiologist, pursued health coaching as a second career at age 52 after witnessing the disappointing outcomes of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Today she teaches clients the underlying causes of diseases and how to use food as medicine through her practice, Living Health Works. Most important, she takes her knowledge of evidence-based nutrition and her passion for health to empower her clients to tap into their own abilities to restore their health, regain their vitality and prevent disabling complications.
Courtesy of Estella Pyfrom
At age 72, Estella Pyfrom started Estella’s Brilliant Bus, a mobile learning lab outfitted with more than a dozen computer stations. The bus travels to underserved and underresourced communities in Florida’s Palm Beach County to provide children and their families access to technology and educational training. Pyfrom started the nonprofit using about $900,000 of her retirement savings.
Courtesy of Vivian Stancil
Vivian Stancil overcame a rough childhood in the foster care system and lost her vision at age 19 with two small sons at home. She went on to become the first blind teacher in the Long Beach, Calif., school district. At age 50, she learned how to swim and lost 100 pounds. She is now an accomplished National Senior Games athlete with hundreds of medals. She created the Vivian Stancil Olympian Foundation to help seniors and at-risk youth participate in sports and fitness.
Courtesy of Cassandra Spratling
In 2015, Cassandra Spratling biked the historic route of the Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights, totaling 50-plus miles, to commemorate her 60th birthday and the 50th anniversary of that monumental event.
“There was no better way for me to ride into my 60th year,” she said. “[The marchers’] actions opened opportunities for me and made America better for everyone,” she added. “Because of them, I could. I could … because they did.”
Courtesy of Curtis Lipscomb
At 51, Curtis Lipscomb became the first black executive director of LGBT Detroit, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase awareness and support Detroit's dynamic LGBT culture through education and advocacy with integrity and pride. Today, at age 52, Lipscomb serves as an active example that people over 50 are still involved in causes and the community, and LGBT Detroit credits his strong leadership for its continued existence.
Courtesy of Mary K. Clark
At age 60, Mary K. Clark embarked on her first 2,500-mile, 10-state motorcycle expedition as part of her 61st birthday celebration. As the primary caregiver for her mother, who died in January 2015, she sought to reclaim her life, rediscover personal joy and experience much-needed self-care. After reconnecting with the love of her life after 27 years, Clark departed from her low-key travel-by-air vacations and joined her beau, an expert motorcyclist, to experience her first long-distance road trip from Michigan to Florida and back.
Courtesy of Stewart Bosley Jr.
At age 67, Stewart Bosley Jr., a former executive recruiter, started West Palm Beach’s first urban farm, Urban Growers. Bosley started the farm after noticing that the Florida city is home to 27 federally designated food deserts, with 18.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Not only does Urban Growers grow fresh produce for the community, it also provides job training and job opportunities to residents of the neighborhood, including previously incarcerated and at-risk youth.
Courtesy of James Patterson
At age 52, James Patterson, an advertising professional and former sports spectator, decided to switch things up a little in his life. Instead of watching from the bench, he entered the ultimate athletic challenge — the Ironman Triathlon. In 2017, at age 57, he expanded upon his endeavor and competed in Ironman South Africa.