They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but these people have shown otherwise. Despite their advancing years, they managed to find fame and fortune in a competitive market full of young upstarts. To show you what I mean, here’s a rundown of successful seniors who have made it to the top:
For the Love of Chicken
Who hasn’t heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC? The genius behind this famous fast food chain is none other than Colonel Harland David Sanders. But the American businessman wasn’t so lucky at first. He lost his dad at the tender age of five, forcing him to look after and cook for his siblings so his mom could work. The young cook later dropped out of seventh grade because of algebra and worked on a farm.
Sanders eventually left school and his home at the age of 13 and tried several careers. He was employed as a horse carriage painter, farmhand, and streetcar conductor among others. However, he was hounded by bad luck wherever he went.
The colonel lost his job as a fireman in Illinois after fighting with a colleague. He studied and practiced law for three years, but his career as a lawyer ended when he fought his own client in court. For a while, Sanders sold life insurance but was fired for insubordination. He also found employment as a tire salesman and gasoline station manager, but the companies he worked for closed shop because of the Great Depression.
In 1930, Sanders served chicken meals to customers at his Shell service station in Kentucky. They were a hit and the colonel finalized his secret recipe for frying chicken in 1940. The first KFC franchise opened in Utah in 1952 and the rest is history.
However, KFC’s rapid growth to over 600 locations proved too difficult for the aging entrepreneur to handle. Sanders was 73 when he sold the company for $2 million in 1964, but he remained a symbol and salaried brand ambassador for KFC and traveled thousands of miles to promote its products. To preserve his image as a Kentucky colonel, he dressed the part and wore the familiar white suit and string tie for the last 20 years of his life.
When Sanders died of pneumonia in 1980 at the age of 90, there were 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 countries worldwide. They generated $2 billion in sales yearly. Not bad for a man who loved chicken.
Life on the Prairie
Many people have fond memories of Little House on the Prairie, the popular American TV series that first aired in 1974. It starred Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert as the father and daughter respectively of a family that lived on a farm in the 1880s.
As a drama series, the show explored many themes like racism, prejudice, alcoholism, child abuse, and drug addiction. However, it also had its fair share of funny moments. The show was well-received and ran for eight years. Reruns are still being aired to this day.
However, did you know that the beloved TV program was based on a series of bestselling books? The whole thing was adapted from the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder who shared her family’s experiences on the American frontier. Wilder wrote several novels recalling her childhood in the northern Midwestern United States.
What’s even more amazing is that the first of a series of eight books was published in 1932 when Wilder was 65 years old. She was aided by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, an established writer who edited the books. Through her connections with literary agents and publishers, Lane managed to sell her mother’s autobiographical manuscript.
Wilder’s books saved the family from the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that wiped out their savings. The stories became a steady source of income and helped mother and daughter recoup their losses. Because of this, Wilder received various honors and many fans visited the farmhouse she lived in.
To date, the Little House books remain in print and have been translated into 40 languages. The ninth book in the series was published posthumously in 1971. In addition to the books, Wilder’s life has been portrayed on screen and stage.
Grandma’s Prized Paintings
The name Anna Mary Robertson Moses may not ring a bell, but that changes when people learn that I’m referring to Grandma Moses. This celebrated painter, who also excelled in embroidery, was known for her simple realism and her nostalgic portrayals of farm life and the countryside.
Her path to fame was not an easy one. While she was always interested in art, Moses spent more than a decade working as a live-in housekeeper. She cooked and sewed for wealthy families starting at the age of 12. At 27, she married Thomas Salmon Moses and the two worked on four separate farms for the next two decades.
However, the budding artist couldn’t hide her creativity and her embroidery attracted the interest of family and friends. When Moses developed painful arthritis at the age of 76, she pursued painting at the advice of her sister.
She began painting at the age of 78 and her works quickly attracted a lot of attention. At first, Moses sold them for $3 to $5 depending on the size. As her popularity grew, her paintings of rural life fetched anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000. The Old Checkered House, 1862, a 1942 piece that was originally sold for less than $10 was insured in 2004 for $60,000. Another painting, Sugaring Off, that was made in 1943, was purchased for $1.2 million in 2006.
When she died at the ripe old age of 101 in 1961, Moses had produced over 1,500 works of art in 30 years. She won numerous awards and her paintings have been shown and sold in the United States and abroad. They are currently found in several museums and have been reproduced in greeting cards, tiles, fabrics, and ceramics. That rounds up our list of successful seniors.