It’s easy to think that past a certain point we can stop learning and put our lives on autopilot. Many of us may begin to think that we’ve finished our expected studies and now all we have to do is live out the rest of our lives. Others might think that they did not get the opportunities that they were hoping for when they were younger and there is no point in pursuing them now. Yet this stands in stark contrast to a number of individuals who are able to inspire us through their courage, their willpower and their determination to learn even at their advanced age. Some of these individuals, at the ripe old age of 70 or above, have broken down multiple barriers in order to achieve their goals and dreams and we hope these serve to inspire you to become the best you can be.
Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport – German-Jewish woman Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport became the world’s oldest person to receive a doctorate degree (PhD) at 102 years old. Though she had completed her thesis on diphtheria in 1938, she was not allowed to sit her last oral exam due to her Jewish heritage. Having later become a doctor in the US, then a professor she finally passed the last oral exam by studying the last 80 years of diphtheria research development in the field.
Kimani Maruge – When the Kenyan Government announced free primary school education for all in 2002, 84 year old Maruge decided to enrol. He was a freedom fighter during British rule and had not had the chance to receive an education but his path was opposed by parents and government officials. Despite this, he managed to enrol and is listed as the oldest person ever to have begun primary school in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Durge Kami – 72 year old Durge Kami from Nepal was born into poverty in a marginalised community. The youngest of 10 children, he worked to support his family after losing his parents at a young age. Despite sneaking in to sit in the classes, he was chased away for being an ‘untouchable’. He chose to enrol in 3rd grade in 2005 and passed his 10th grade in 2017. He said that “with the wisdom of age, I want to sow the light of knowledge [for] everyone”.
Dona Lupita – Guadalupe Palacios, or Dona Lupita as she is fondly known, is seeking to achieve her dream of finishing high school by her 100th birthday. Having only learned how to write at 92, she spent her life raising six children and selling chickens at a local market for income. She’s not planning on stopping as she wants to become a kindergarten teacher after graduation.
Setsuko Takamizawa – 91 year old great-grandmother Takamizawa is aiming to become fluent in the English language to help her get a volunteer role at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. During World War II, English had been banned because it was the enemy’s language so she never had the chance to learn at school. She is lucky though because her family is teaching her new words and phrases daily so she can be ready for the task.
All of these individuals have proven to us that we have much more potential than we think. We are all much more capable than we give ourselves credit for but it is up to each of us to take the first step and become who we truly can be.