A French book has come into our possession called Aged 50 and Beyond (50 Ans et Après). It concerns the current attitude towards the word "Old"
which in the French language seems to have become a word that can't be used, it has become taboo. (This is not confined just to the French language, in our opinion.) The word has ceased to be any longer a factual word meaning the opposite of "young". In French the word "old" rhymes with "shameful" and appears to carry some of the same resonance and it seems that you must use the euphemisms "elder" or "senior". According to author Eric Dudan, the meaning of the word "old" has changed to "too old", it has become a judgement rather than a statement of fact. Well, we'd certainly be of the opinion that this is not a good thing.
Eric Dudan then goes on to write about 50 people throughout history whose greatest achievements happened, or at least continued, beyond the age of 50. Most of the examples in the book are from the literary and cultural worlds, as well as business, politics and innovation. Examples are Henri Matisse, whose paper cut-outs "Blue Nudes" were made at the age of 83, Frank Lloyd Wright whose masterpiece Guggenheim Museum was completed at the age of 91, and Potter Lucie Rie, whose latest avant-garde ceramics were exhibited, when she was 87, in Japan alongside the equally adventurous creations of designer Issey Miyake.
There are not many sporting achievements in the list, in fact the only one is Sir Francis Chichester who sailed round the world single handed at the age of 65 (having never set foot in a sailing boat before the age of 50). There are adventurers, such as Alexandra David-Neél, an explorer of the inaccessible realms of the Himalayas who was born in 1868 and whose last great journey to Tibet took place when she was 74. Another is Theodore Monod, whose love and respect for the African desert made him a pioneer ecologist and whose last expedition, to Yemen, took place at the age of 93.
One notable person, who is not in the book, whose exploits are more in keeping with SGSC is Sir Ranulph Fiennes, whose most recent expedition in 2009 was to climb Everest at the age of 65. In an interview around that time he referred to the conditioning work he underwent directed by his wife; so yet another example of the fact that age is no barrier to physical achievement as long as you have the commitment to make the effort.
Let hope that the next edition of 50 and Beyond will have many more world class examples in the realm of physical and sporting achievement to choose from.