As the generation born during the post-WWII population spike enters old age, It’s become fashionable to look elsewhere for leadership and inspiration. Okay, Boomers—you’ve had your time. Now step aside. (We’re looking at you, Joe Biden and Donald Trump.)
But not so fast. Stories still abound of people performing incredible feats well beyond what many consider their prime. From marathoners and skydivers to first-time parents and porn stars (yes, porn stars), here are some oldies but goodies.
10 Running Late: Oldest Marathoner
Despite taking up running just a few years earlier, in 2001, Fauja Singh completed his first marathon. Even more impressive was his age: 93. And while his time of 6 hours, 54 minutes wouldn’t normally raise any eyebrows, it was nearly an hour faster than the 90 and over age group record. Soon, Singh found himself featured in an advertising campaign alongside soccer great David Beckham and boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Throughout his 90s, Singh ran everything from track meet sprints to full marathons. On October 13, 2011, Singh, now 100, participated in a special event in Toronto. One after the other, he ran 100 meters in 23.14 seconds, 200 meters in 52.23 seconds, 400 meters in 2 minutes 13.48 seconds, and 800 meters in 5 minutes 32.18 seconds—all centenarian world records.
That same day, he set new 100-and-over benchmarks for 1500 meters, one mile, 3,000 meters, and 5,000 meters. Singh had broken eight age group records in ONE DAY. He then took two days off before becoming, on October 16, 2011, the first 100-year-old to complete a marathon, finishing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in just over eight hours.
In 2020, Singh was immortalized in Fauja Singh Keeps Going, a children’s book that became one of the first in the UK to focus on a Sikh Indian. Now 111, he’s since retired from the sport he took up well after retirement age.
9 Old School: Oldest College Graduate
When it comes to higher education, the younger the student, the more celebrated their achievements. Entire articles are dedicated to wunderkinds who pull off real-life Doogie Howser achievements by becoming pre-pubescent college graduates. For what it’s worth, the youngest of these child geniuses is Michael Kearney. In 1994 at age 10, he earned a degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama, which sounds like an academic oxymoron.
But advanced education at an advanced age is also impressive. And in 2007—four years after Joseph “Blue” Pulaski died rushing a fraternity at fictional Harrison University in the 2003 comedy Old School—Kansas native Nola Ochs became the oldest person ever to graduate from college. She earned a degree from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, at the spritely age of 95. Charmingly, it was the same college Ochs had entered but not completed way back in 1930. Thirteen grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren later, Ochs finally had her diploma.
Ochs went on to live to 105. She passed away in December 2016—just long enough to see her record broken. Earlier that year, 96-year-old Shigemi Hirata graduated from the Kyoto University of Art and Design in Japan with a degree in Ceramic Arts. Hirata was born and raised in Hiroshima (the first city ever struck by a nuclear weapon) and fought in World War II—two factors that made living this lengthy a life unlikely, let alone setting an age-defying academic record.
8 Peni-Century: Oldest Prisoner
Usually, when an 84-year-old murders four people, he can expect to spend the rest of his life in prison. Such was the case with Indian native and Hindu priest Brij Bihari Pandey.
In 1987, one of Pandey’s rivals was appointed chief priest of the Jagannath Hindu Temple in Maharajganj, located in northern India. As a perfectly proportionate response, Pandey and more than a dozen other men, many of whom were his nephews and extended family, killed the rival priest and three of his supporters. Because, you know, religion and stuff.
Pandey was promptly arrested, and in a prime example of expedient justice, his trial took more than two decades to complete. Most octogenarians would have perished in the process. Yet Pandey persisted, and in 2009, the priest was convicted of murder at the age of 106.
After serving just two years of his sentence, Pandey was released from prison due to concerns about—and yes, this is true—his failing health. “It was getting difficult to take care of a 108-year-old prisoner,” said the prison’s superintendent. “We moved an application for his release, and the court accepted it.”
By the time he gained his freedom at age 108, Pandey was declared the oldest prisoner in the world. Pandey was no longer able to walk, so he was carried out of prison.
7 Meet My Old Lady: Oldest Mothers
For whatever reason, India is all over this late-in-life list. And while the aforementioned Hindu priest took a life, a septuagenarian named Mangayamma Yaramat created it. Twice. In September 2019, the 74-year-old gave birth to twins, becoming what many believe as the oldest woman ever to give birth.
There are, however, two caveats. First, Yaramat used in vitro fertilization to become pregnant, meaning the eggs were fertilized outside the womb. In fact, it isn’t clear if the eggs even belonged to Yaramat.
Second, Yaramat’s claim on the “World’s Oldest Mom” title remains disputed. Guinness, generally considered the “record bestower of record,” lists the oldest-ever mother as Spain’s Maria del Carmen Bousada Lara, who in 2006 birthed twins seven days before her 67th birthday. Lara also used IVF to get pregnant—and was only able to because she told doctors she was 55 instead of 66.
A separate record is recognized for women who became pregnant naturally. That distinction is held by England resident Dawn Brooke, who in 1997 gave birth to a son at age 59. Unwelcoming of what they knew would be a media circus, Brooke and her husband kept mum for a full decade before telling their story. In 2007, proud papa Raymond Brooke, who became a first-time father at age 64, showcased trademark British understatement by saying the unplanned pregnancy came as “a bit of a shock” to him and his wife.
6 Strongest for Longest: Oldest Bodybuilder
In 1946, a 14-year-old nicknamed “Skinny Bones” invested 25 cents for a copy of Molding a Mighty Chest by muscleman George Jowett. More than 70 years later, Jim Arrington was recognized by Guinness as the world’s oldest bodybuilder.
Now 90 and a great-grandfather, the Venice, California, resident is in better shape than most men a fraction of his age. However, Arnold Schwarzenegger he most certainly is not. “My goal was to be Mr. America,” said Arrington. “But after five years, I saw I didn’t really have the genetics.”
Arrington may very well have put the dumbbells down for good in his early 40s were it not for advice from someone he idolized: Ken Waller, who was named Mr. Universe in 1975. “He told me to do what works for YOU.” Arrington’s body-sculpting goals became more personal as he strove to be the best version of himself rather than the unrealistic superhumans in muscle magazines.
It paid off. In 2022, Arrington actually posed nude for Men’s Health magazine, showing off a physique that looks several decades younger. Still, Arrington remains realistic about Father Time’s undefeated record and has adapted accordingly. “At my age, your body’s a lot more fragile… your tendons have a tendency to want to detach. In the past five years, my left bicep broke loose, and I had a tear in my right bicep, too.” No pain, no gain.
5 Leap Years: Oldest Skydiver
To celebrate his 90th birthday in 2014, former U.S. president George H.W. Bush went skydiving, despite being confined to a wheelchair. Undoubtedly, Bush had experienced far more frightening aerial adventures than that, considering he was a fighter pilot in World War II and nearly died after being shot down.
But though he was certainly the oldest U.S. president to jump from a plane, Bush the Elder was far from the oldest known skydiver. That distinction belongs to Sweden’s Rut Linnéa Ingegärd Larsson, who, in May 2022, parachuted down from the heavens at the sky-high age of 103 years and 259 days. She was about three months older than Alfred Blaschke, who had set the record in 2020 at 103 years and 181 days.
Larsson didn’t develop an interest in parachuting and skydiving until she was nearly 90, probably because what’s the worst that can happen at that point. In fact, she stuck to paragliding until finally skydiving for the first time in 2020. On the way down during her record-breaking tandem jump, the grandmother of 19 and great-grandmother of 30 listened to “Try Your Wings” by Swedish composer Lasse Dahlquist, which sure beats the hell out of Abba or Ace of Base.
4 A Punch for the Ages: Boxing’s Oldest Heavyweight Champion
Remember when heavyweight boxing mattered or when most people could actually name the current titleholder? (I just looked it up, and actually, there are two: the UK’s Tyson Fury holds the WBC belt, while Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk holds the IBF & WBO titles.)
Anyway, boxing used to be a pretty big deal before mixed martial arts convinced spectators that combatants rolling around on the ground in sexually suggestive positions constitutes entertainment. In the heavyweight division, the most recent golden age began promptly on November 22, 1986, when 20-year-old Mike Tyson became the youngest ever to claim the title. It took the ear-chomping Iron Mike less than two rounds to knock out reigning champion Trevor Berbick.
In the early 1990s, the title changed hands a few times. Then, less than a decade after boxing had its youngest heavyweight champ, it also had its oldest. On November 5, 1994, recently unretired and financially strapped 45-year-old George Foreman fought incumbent Michael Moorer for the title. Clearly past his expiration date (and ideal fighting weight), Foreman was manhandled for nine-plus rounds before landing what remains one of the most remarkable punches in boxing history. Foreman successfully defended his belt in April 1995 before relinquishing the title that June at age 46.
3 40 Love? Oldest Tennis Grand Slam Winner
While professional athletics are largely dominated by prime-age 20- and early 30-somethings, exceptions can be found in most sports. Tom Brady was MVP of the Super Bowl at age 43. Satchel Paige, likely the greatest pitcher in baseball history, played in the Major Leagues until his late 50s. In soccer, which typically demands competitors run over five miles per match, 40-year-old Dino Zoff was on a World Cup-winning Italy team—though, in full disclosure, he was a goalkeeper.
And so it is with tennis when Ken Rosewall set a record in 1972 that stills stands—winning the Australian Open at the ripe old age of…
… 37? That can’t be right.
But it is. The oldest person ever to win any of the four major professional tennis tournaments (meaning Wimbledon or the Australian, French, or U.S. Opens) as a singles player was three years shy of 40. In fact, no 40-year-old has ever APPEARED in a major tournament final, let alone won it; the oldest major runner-up was 39 years and 10 months old. His name was… um, Ken Rosewall, at the 1974 U.S. Open.
The next-oldest major winners are more familiar names. Roger Federer won the 2018 Australian Open at age 36, while Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open at age 35. Earlier this year, Novak Djokovic won the 2023 Australian Open, also at 35.
2 Turtle Power: Oldest Land Animal
In 1882, a 50-year-old giant tortoise was brought from the Seychelles Islands near Madagascar to Saint Helena, a British territory in the South Atlantic Ocean. Ever the slowpoke, it took the tortoise another 50 years to obtain a proper British name, which Governor Spencer Davis bestowed upon him in the 1930s when the not-so-newcomer was named Jonathan.
And another 90 years later, he’s STILL being called Jonathan.
Last year, the tenacious tortoise turned 190, making him easily the world’s oldest known land animal. He has surpassed the age of the oldest-ever known tortoise, a 189-year-old named Tu’i Malila, who died in 1966. (Some claim that an Aldabra giant tortoise from India’s Alipore Zoological Gardens lived to be over 250 years old, but that has never been confirmed; the tortoise died in 2006.)
Despite being blind from cataracts and no longer able to smell (necessitating hand feeding), Jonathan still has excellent hearing. He spends most of his time eating, snoozing, and even mating—the ideal retirement trifecta. A bona fide celebrity, Jonathan has been featured in magazine spreads and BBC broadcasts and even graces the back of Saint Helena’s five-pence coin. He lives on the grounds of the governor’s residence, which has seen 31 occupants since Jonathan’s arrival on the island.
1 Active Senior: Oldest Porn Star
In the fall of 2020, Japanese actress Yuko Ogasawara lamented on the struggles her industry was facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had indefinitely postponed the vast majority of productions amid widespread lockdowns. Notably, Ogasawara was concerned that she didn’t have much time left to further her acting career since she was 84 years old. Even more notably, her acting genre was porn movies.
Her move into adult films was a very long time coming. Growing up in Tokyo during the bombed-out aftermath of World War II, she led a largely conventional life for her first six decades. Married at 24 and widowed at 59, she ran a small restaurant for years before a customer who did hair and makeup for porn productions mentioned they were looking for newcomers that were… uh, let’s say “mature.”
Ogasawara’s film debut came in 2016 when she starred as a housewife who endures boring relations with her husband before finding more titillating stimulation elsewhere. In other words, she went from the same old sex to just plain old sex.
Generally considered the world’s oldest porn star, Japan’s favorite GGILF has since appeared in over a dozen films, keeping her shooting schedule fairly light because… well, because she’s an octogenarian, for God’s sake.
Ogasawara attributes her longevity to her difficult past. “The number of people who lived through the war is getting smaller and smaller,” she said. “I have a strong heart because I’ve been through hard times.” Hard times, indeed.