Are You One of the Late Bloomers?

Recently I ran across this article about late bloomers, people who had not found their calling until after age 30. As a late bloomer myself, I found it intriguing. So I thought I’d do a little research and create a short list of people who did their “blooming” after age 50.

"TheFirstMumFlower1" by macfanmd, on FlickrLate bloomers may be unclear about their career paths when young, but they go on to either (1) discover their talents later in life or (2) finally take a chance on pursuing an old dream.

As I look at this list, it strikes me that many of the people on it lived to be quite old. Could it be that pursuing your passions later in life is also good for your health and longevity?

Late Bloomers After 50

Colonel Harland Sanders – started the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise at age 65.

Grandma Moses – began painting at 76, after arthritis forced her to give up embroidery. She continued painting until 101.

Julia Child – became a chef after many years as a secret intelligence officer. She was 49 when her first book was published, 51 when her TV program “The French Chef” first aired.

Ray Kroc – went from being a salesman to opening the first McDonalds at age 52.

Raymond Chandler – became a bookkeeper after an unsuccessful career in journalism. Published his first book, The Big Sleep, at the age of 51.

Sister Marion Irvine – started running at age 47, when she was overweight and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day. Went on to qualify for the Olympic marathon trials at age 54.

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas – began her environmental work when in her 60s. Started her long fight to protect the Everglades at age 78, which she continued until she was 100.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – published the first book in the “Little House on the Prairie” series at 65.

Wallace Stevens – changed his career from insurance salesman to poet in his 50s.

Maya Angelou – was in her 60s when her poetry and books became popular.

Alfred Hitchcock – directed his best films between the ages of 54 and 61.

Susan Boyle – achieved worldwide recognition for her singing talent at age 48 (almost 50).

And of course there are others who may have always known their calling, but who continued producing some of their best work into their 80’s and beyond. People like Picasso, Tolstoy, Goethe, Michelangelo, DaVinci, and Benjamin Franklin, to name just a few.

This list shows it’s never too late to set course in a new direction. That it is possible to create a more meaningful and authentic career after 50.

Do you count yourself among the late bloomers?

Photo credit: macfanmd / CC license

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{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Ginny

    I just found your blog while searching inspiration from others that sought and found success after age 50. I am 55 and considering returning to college for a Bachelor of Science in Education in order to become a Reading Specialist. I am divorced with grown children and grandchildren and have recently experienced 2 job layoffs in 10 months. Now I am standing at a crossroad and longing to return to school and follow a long standing desire to help struggling readers of all ages. I believe the rewards will be realised beyond the obvious financial gains by increasing my personal self esteem and allow me to become self reliant well into my “golden years.” Am I crazy?

    • Ginny, thank you for sharing your dream. What a difference you could make in people’s lives by helping them learn to read (not to mention your own)! And it sounds like you’re so clear about what you want.

      I, for one, don’t think you’re crazy at all. I’m sorry to hear about your layoffs, but sometimes I wonder if events like that serve as wake-up calls to get us moving in the direction we need.

      Once you start on a road toward a new goal, it’s amazing how things start falling into place, and how quickly time passes. Let’s say your degree program takes 4 years. Would you rather be 4 years older and still dreaming, or 4 years older working in a career you’re passionate about?

      If you’re unclear about certain aspects of a Reading Specialist career or about the possibilities for employment, do some research both online and in your community. Talk to (and get to know) people who are working in the field.

      As for returning to school – when I went back to school in my late 40s, I was far from the oldest student there. And I found it so much more exciting than the first time around, because I knew why I was there.

      As you stand at your crossroad, you might ask yourself… what’s keeping you from taking the path you long to take?

      Warm regards,

  • Linda Jones

    Would love to know if you have decided whether to go back to education Ginny.

    • Linda, welcome! I hope Ginny comes back and finds your question. I too would love to know if she decided to return to school.

      Best wishes,

  • Karen D.

    Hi Janet,

    Loved the article and it definitely hits home for me. I thought that something was wrong with me for not having a clear vision as to my calling. I do believe my childhood had something to do with it. At age 17, I was interested in a few things with medicine being #1, but my dad had other plans for me (his plans). I couldn’t even go out of state to college! Imagine that!! So now at 57 yrs. old and just retired I’m wondering what’s next for me. I have a desire to write and felt I was too old to see that come to fruition, but after reading your article I have renewed hope that it isn’t too late for me.

    Thank you Janet! This couldn’t have come at a better time!

    (from New Jersey)

    • Hi, Karen!

      I’m so glad the article spoke to you. I find those late bloomers inspiring as well. I truly believe it’s never too late… it just takes some of us a little longer to be able to hear our voices.

      I hope your next chapter is an exciting one!

      Warm regards,

  • Greg

    I am an unemployed adult who enjoys volunteering with the economically disadvantaged. I would like to pursue a career in a related field. Any ideas?

    • Hi Greg, volunteering can be a great way to transition into a new career. You not only gain experience to show on your resume, but you have the chance to get to know people who are already working in the field. You might want to check out my post on volunteering jobs for some other thoughts about that. Good luck to you. ~ Janet

  • Carl W

    After 20yrs working for a major insurance company, I decided to go back to school to get my engineering degree. I just turned 50yrs old and have another 2yrs to go before I get my BS degree. I look forward to a new challenge and career that will carry thru my next 50 years-If I live that long! HAHA!!!

    • Congratulations, Carl! Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to be looking forward to new challenges? As for the next 50 years, who knows… late bloomers do seem to live longer. Wishing you all the best, Janet

  • Karen Jane

    I’m now feeling more inspired, having just turned 50 (still very active) but very unsure of making some changes, its refreshing to see so many people making new lives.
    I love what I do but also would love to include a few other areas in my life, definitely going for it now :-)

    • Glad to hear you’re going for it, Karen Jane! Seeing other people take steps toward their dreams made me realize I could do the same. I’d love to hear how it goes with you!

  • I came home from Vietnam at the age of 20 with severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I was a Navy corpsman (medic) with the Marines. Most of my adult life I was coping with surviving and getting psychological help from various sources while working at making a living from one job to another. My passion of writing songs and poetry was on hold due to depression and anxiety. At the age of 50 I collaborated with an old friend and musician on a Folk-Country CD that took 4 years to was called: The Gousters. It did quite well and remained on the Folk Charts for over 60 weeks being played in this small genre on radio and the internet. Compensation for my disability has allowed me to pursue writing and recording and my last CD peaked at # 2 (California I Gotta Run) on Roots Music Report in 2010. All of this is has been mind boggling since I thought I was destined to just live out my days on a veteran’s psychiatric ward. My 4th CD entitled “Gone So Long” is, I feel perhaps my best effort so far. To me it’s been a miracle whatever small achievements I may have accomplished but most important is the satisfaction of creating words and melodies combined with beautiful instruments to finally achieve creating something I find so creatively satisfying. Hopefully sharing this same feeling with others is only a plus.
    Sincerely, Walt Cronin

    • I love stories like yours, Walt. Other late bloomers are sure to find inspiration from you. What strikes me is how you never gave up on your dream of writing songs and poetry. You always believed in yourself. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • I finished two college degrees and began teaching middle school social studies at age 56. I had mostly rewarding experiences teaching, but left the profession last year at age 65 after encountering some issues with age discrimination.

    No matter. I took a brief vacation to Mexico, then within a month I had a blog up and running. I still post regularly to the blog and am developing some short story ideas today.

    Plans for the foreseeable future include learning keyboards and Mandarin Chinese. With age comes increased wisdom, and I find that life has endless possibilities if I remain open and teachable. Thank you for your encouraging material and much needed contributions to this topic.

    • David, it sounds like you’ve turned late blooming into an art! I totally agree with you that being “open and teachable” is the key to living more fully.

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