The Strongest Senior Citizens in the World
Many people find the thought of getting older more than a little depressing. It’s no fun contemplating the difficulties that come with an aging body. Everything becomes more challenging, and an increasing number of health issues seem to inevitably come up that get in the way of living your golden years to the fullest.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 25 seniors who prove there’s really no age limit when it comes to staying healthy. We find them truly inspiring— and we think you will too.
Rodney Hahn, 54
Being in the over-50 crowd seems to have made Virginia Beach resident Rodney Hahn determined to stay fitter than ever. He recently smashed a number of pull-up records, including the most done in 12 hours (he did 4,310) and 24 hours (he completed 6,737, more than a 900 increase above the previous record-holder). Hahn loves sharing his training method with others to achieve fitness success.
Sy Perlis, 91
Do you even know what you can bench press? Chances are it’s less than 187 pounds, which is what 91-year-old Sy Perlis of Surprise, AZ recently achieved in the National Push-Pull Bench Press and Deadlift Championships. As you might imagine, it was a world record for his age group. The WWII vet started weightlifting when he was 60 and has continued in spite of surgeries to fix a hernia and get a pacemaker, not to mention his acute arthritis.
Ron Gellis, 68
After completing more than 20 marathons, Ron Gellis of Orange County, CA discovered the CrossFit conditioning and strength program. In 2013, at age 65, he was the oldest competitor ever in the nationally televised championship of the CrossFit Games. In the 60+ age group, he came in fifteenth, which is impressive considering all his competitors were younger than him. He can run 400 meters in 1:10, deadlift 320 pounds, and barbell squat 220 pounds.
Jacinto Bonilla, 77
Retired x-ray technician Jacinto Bonilla has kept himself fit as a fiddle in his golden years, with a personal best marathon time of 3:26. In 2009, he discovered CrossFit and was immediately hooked. He hasn’t competed every year in the championship, but when he does, he’s always the oldest athlete at the games, typically by at least a decade. He plans to continue training and competing until he’s 100 years old.
Yuichiro Miura, 81
Successfully climbing to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, is a grueling feat not many people have accomplished, and one that quite a few have died trying. In 2003 at the age of 70, Japanese skier Yuichiro Miura became the oldest person to summit Everest. He did it again at age 75 and a third time at age 80 to defend his title in spite of two heart surgeries. He plans on doing it again when he’s 90!
Ted Brown, 83
In Great Britain’s Powerlifting Federation record book, 83-year-old retired postal worker Ted Brown is the only one listed in the 80+ category. He competes in the 130-pound weight class and keeps setting records far above his competitors. He has accumulated more than two dozen trophies for his efforts and has records for the raw bench press (178.6 pounds), the squat (193 pounds), and the deadlift (298 pounds). He used to be a body builder back in the day but made the switch to powerlifting when he turned 40.
Ralph Elsman, 82
A resident of Long Hill Township, NJ, Ralph Elsman was a nationally ranked lifter back in the 1950s but gave it up to raise a family. It wasn’t until 55 years later that he got back into it. At the National Masters Weightlifting Championships, he hoisted 189.63 pounds from the floor up over his head in a move called the clean-and-jerk. Needless to say, that’s a world record for his age.
Mikhail Verbitsky, 65
Belarus powerlifter Mikhail Verbitsky is 65 and still setting records. In fact, many consider him the strongest man in the world at his age. He regularly hoists over 600 pounds in his deadlift. He doesn’t go to a fancy health club for his workouts, just an average gym. As he puts it, “Iron is iron; you can pump it!”
Hidekichi Miyazaki, 105
When Hidekichi Miyazaki of Japan turned 90, he decided to take up running. Now he’s known around the world as Japan’s “Golden Bolt.” At 105 years of age, he is the oldest sprinter in the world. In 2015, he ran the 100-meter sprint in a little over 42 seconds, putting him in the Guinness Book of World Records. He’s got 10 grandchildren and plans to keep racing and trying to beat his own record. His secret for health is just daily exercise and a “sensible” diet.
Mark Jordan, 54
When Mark Jordan was 54, he set a world record for doing the most pull-ups in a 24 hours. He completed a grand total 4,321 in one day. Although a 34-year-old came along and set a new record, he continues to maintain his fitness and wants everyone to know how important it is to stay active and address your health issues at any age.
Doris Long, 101
Many people haven’t even heard of abseiling until they realize it’s what they know as rappelling. Now think about this— in England, there’s a woman known as Daring Doris. She may be 101 years old, but Doris Long is truly fearless. When she abseiled down 300 feet of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth in 2015, she maintained her world record as the oldest abseiler on the planet— a record she first set on her 100th birthday in 2014. She took up abseiling at the age of 85.
Larry Macon, 72
Larry Macon started running marathons in 1996. Finishing one is a feat in and of itself, but in 2008, he set a Guinness World Record for running the most marathons in a year when he completed 105. Not willing to rest on his laurels, in 2013 at age 69 he decided to do it again, and this time he ran a total of 239 marathons for a new world record.
Maurice Catarcio, 68
Maurice Catarcio’s day job is being the chairman of the Cape May Bridge Commission in New Jersey. But after hours, he becomes The Magnificent Maurice, a fitness crusader who wows crowds with his amazing feats of strength in spite of have suffered both prostate cancer and a heart attack. At age 68, he can do some pretty amazing things, like lifting a refrigerator with three women on it, ripping decks of playing cards in half, and bending steel bars.
Don Wildman, 82
Some might recognize the name of Don Wildman as the founder of Bally’s Total Fitness, a very successful gym franchise. What most people don’t know is that at age 82, he is a living example of what his business is all about. He’s an active participant in triathlons, mountain biking, and weightlifting. He does a very intense circuit workout that has kept him in good enough shape to do things like paddle all of the Hawaiian islands in his 70s.
Ernestine Shepherd, 79
When Ernestine Shepherd turned 54, she noticed she couldn’t fit into her bathing suit anymore. This was a loud wake-up call for someone who was a model when she was young. It inspired her to get serious about fitness. She can bench press 150 pounds and runs 80 miles every week. At age 79, she holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest female bodybuilder who still actively competes.
Pat Gallant-Charette, 65
When Pat Gallant-Charette decided to take up serious swimming at age 46, she had no idea what it would lead to. Discovering she had a natural knack for distance swimming that seemed to only get better with age, she continued to push herself to the limits with such tough swims as the 33-mile Tsugaru Strait in Japan and the 21-mile swim around Catalina Island. Now she has set her sights on being the oldest person to complete the seven hardest open-water swims on the planet, known as the Ocean’s Seven.
Mike Brooks, 70
In 1994, Mike Brooks realized that his weight and smoking habit were killing him. The former fire chief from Maine decided to take up running and soon discovered how much he liked marathons. At age 70, he ran a marathon a day for seven days straight, raising $15,000 for a camp in Maine that serves kids with life-threatening illnesses. He may be slowing down a little, but he still manages to run 70 races a year, some of which are ultra-marathons.
Philippa Raschker, 69
Unlike many of our senior stars who took up their activities of choice late in life, Eileen Philippa “Phil” Raschker has been doing track and field since she was 13 and has never stopped. At age 69, this daytime accountant has more than 71 gold medals won at the World Masters Athletic Championships in a stunning array of events, including the triple jump, long jump, high jump, pole vault, hurdles, three different sprints, and the heptathlon.
Robert Durbin, 66
During one of his recent workouts at the gym, 66-year-old Robert Durbin accepted a challenge from a 21-year-old to see who could do the most one-armed push-ups. The youngster did four and Durbin did 10, in spite of being two hours into his second workout of the day! Durbin got serious about fitness when he was 57, weighed 222 pounds, and needed ankle braces and a cane to walk. He’s also fighting colon cancer, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of staying in shape.
Ida Keeling, 101
Manhattan resident Ida Keeling, at the encouragement of one of her children, took up running at age 67 and hasn’t looked back since. She just keeps setting records. In 2011, at age 95, she set a world record for her age group with a 60-meter time of 29.86 seconds. At 99, she set a 100-meter dash record of 59.80, and just this year at the age of 101 she ran the 100-meter in 1:17.33, a world record for the 100+ age group.
Although he passed away in 2011 at the age of 96, Jack LaLanne will be remembered as the first person to really preach the gospel of fitness. He opened the nation’s first health and fitness club in Oakland, CA way back in 1936. He invented some of the basic gym equipment still used today. When a 21-year-old Mr. Universe— a fellow by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger— came to the US and saw LaLanne on Venice Beach, he challenged him to a contest of push-ups and pull-ups. LaLanne, who was 54 at the time, easily beat Schwarzenegger.
Charles Eugster, 97
You simply won’t find a fitter, healthier person at age 97 than Charles Eugster of Zurich, Switzerland. He’ll be the first to say that diet and exercise are important, but he thinks the real enemy of fitness is retirement. Instead, he recommends staying active at something. The former dentist notes it’s never too late to get fit. He started weightlifting at 87 and running at 95, and he’s got multiple world records in each that prove that the only right time to get healthy is now.
Johanna Quass, 91
Johanna Quass is 91 years old and the world’s oldest competitive gymnast. Hailing from Germany, Johanna has been competing at gymnastics since 1934. She gave it up for a couple decades when she got married in the 1960s, but she got back into it at age 55. Just imagine being 91 and able to do floor routines that include backflips and headstands or getting up on the parallel bars and absolutely killing it for a crowd of onlookers.
In the city of Tamil Nadu, state of Coimbatore, India, there’s a woman known only as Nanammal. At age 97, she’s an avid practitioner of yoga and claims it is the secret behind her fitness and health. She has never been hospitalized and has never taken medications. However, she supplements her yoga with a very strict diet— kanji (a fermented drink of black carrots, beetroot, mustard seeds, and heeng) for breakfast, rice and greens for lunch, then fruit and milk for supper.
Wendy Ida, 64
When Wendy Ida is out and about with her 41-year-old daughter Sky, people often think Wendy is the younger of the two, when actually she’s 64. After an abusive relationship left her self-esteem in tatters and her weight at an alarming 195 pounds, Wendy decided to turn things around. She worked out for a couple hours every day at a gym and saw her weight drop an astonishing 80 pounds to settle at 127, complete with sculpted, washboard abs.