Extraordinary Seniors

When I was young some of my best memories revolve around my grandparents visiting us from England.  They would come to see us every other year so they became a huge influence in my life as I am sure many of you are to your grandchildren and even great – grandchildren.

My grandfather would take long walks everyday and I remember as a young child watching him craft a walking stick, even carving an intricate design into the handle.  I loved taking walks with my grandfather and one day he surprised me with a walking stick of my own, shiny and beautifully carved.  I thought he was the best inventor ever.  Little did I realize the truly amazing senior inventors. artists and authors that have made an impact on our society.

Inventing creations may be thought of as a young person’s game, but they don’t have the years of experience and wisdom to really          fine-tune a product.  When seniors invent creations, they are able to tap into decades of knowledge and foresight, two critical qualities necessary to invent something useful.  In the following list of famous senior inventors of products, are and literature we’ll take a look at some of their creations that have served an essential need in society that young people probably wouldn’t have have been able to address.  Take for instance Benjamin Franklin who at the age of 78 invented bifocal glasses, giving seniors everywhere the ability to see both up close and far away at the same time.  In August 1784 he wrote to his friend George Whatley, that he was “happy in the invention of double spectacles, which serving for distant objects as well as near ones, make my eyes as useful to me as every they were.”   Franklin also had other major accomplishments as a senior.  In 1776, at the age of 70 he served on the committee of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence and was the oldest person to put his signature on the document.  In 1787 Benjamin Franklin signed the United States Constitution, he was 81 years old.

Other amazing inventors who created products in their senior years include:  Peter Mark Roget, an English doctor, writer and inventor, who at the age of 73 published the first edition of the thesaurus, the gold standard of synonyms and one of the most enduring reference materials today.  He also supervised all the revisions of the thesaurus, now commonly called “Roget’s Thesaurus,” for the next 17 years until his death at the age of 90, showing he was still quite capable of high level work.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known to the world as Grandma Moses, didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76 when her hand became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle.  She found herself unable to sit around and no nothing, after a long life spent working on farms.  Grandma Moses never had any formal training, but she painted every day, turning out more than a thousand paintings in 25 years.  When an art collector passing through her town in New York saw the paintings selling for a few dollars in a drug store, he bought them all and arranged for them to be shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  Even with her newfound fame, Grandma Moses topics remained the same, nostalgic, colorful scenes of farm life, such as the first snow or a maple sugaring.  This, however did not limit her audience as her painting were displayed in museums as far away as Vienna, Austria.  When Anna Mary Roberts Moses died in 1961 at age 101, President John F. Kennedy released a statement praising her paintings for inspiring a nation, noting “All Americans mourn her loss.”

George Weiss, a Brooklyn wallpaper hanger, created the game called Dabble at the age of 84.  Each player gets 20 tiles with letter on them and need to come up with words as fast as they can in 5 minutes.  In 2011 Weiss was awarded “Game of the Year” award in the family games category.

Charles Greeley Abbott was dedicated astrophysicist who became the Secretary of the Smithsonian at age 56.  Despite his full work schedule at the age of 99 he invented the solar cooker, a cooking vessel that converts the suns rays into heat energy that gooks the food.  Abbott was the oldest person to receive a patent and although he passed away at the age of 101, his record as the oldest inventor still stands.

Gus Van Beek, a Dutch – American was hero was constantly thinking up new ideas well into his senior years and applying for new patents.  Van Beek is best known for his invention the “Truckers Friend.” A large knife for truckers which features an axe, hammer, nail puller, tire chain hook, pry bar and lever and wire twist.  Today at the age of 94 he is one of the oldest living inventors in the United States.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best -selling series of books began with “Little House in the Big Woods”, which chronicled her pioneering childhood in the late 1800’s.  The books where so well-loved that NBC adapted one into a pilot and then a TV series called “Little House on the Prairie” that aired from 1974 to 1982.  Wilder did not publish her first book, “Little House in the Big Woods”, until she was 64 years old and continued the series about herself and her family, ending with “These Happy Golden Years” at age 76.

In closing I want you to know that I think about my grandparents and the stories, lessons and wisdom they shared with me growing up.  Just as the senior inventors, artists and authors I mentioned here today that contributed so much to society, you all have so much to teach the younger generation and your contribution is invaluable.

Written by: Susan Parise