Light plane landing on the runway on the airfield

Today’s seniors are meeting 2017 with energy, enthusiasm and elan, by breaking new ground and refusing to give way to the stereotypes about ‘old people’. This month, we bring you three inspiring new stories about seniors all over the world who are living their lives full-throttle. Caregivers, home care aides and loved ones can take inspiration from these three seniors who aren’t just waiting for life to happen to them.

Isabella Watson became the oldest bride ever recorded in the state of Kansas in October 2016, at the age of 92. She met her new husband at the retirement community where they both live, and their wedding is very likely the first one ever performed at the community’s chapel. Isabella’s groom, Drury, just 79, has been married twice before, while Isabella’s only prior marriage ended in the 1950’s. She raised children, whom she survives, on her own, and never met another marriage prospect. She appreciates Drury’s companionship, and the new family her new husband brings with him, including his sister, a Methodist minister who performed their wedding ceremony. Isabella isn’t just a record-setter, but a trend-setter as well. In 2015, 1.5 percent of Kansas brides were over 65, and nationally, about half of those over 65 who had been married before chose to remarry. Isabella wore a blue dress, which may just start another trend.

In December, Ernie Smith flew down the runway on his 99th birthday and into the history books as the oldest active pilot in the world. He first earned his license in 1946, and has been admiring the view from the air ever since. Ernie rents a small plane at the Red Oak Municipal Airport three or four times a week, which is all his budget allows, but says he would fly every day if he could swing it. Despite a challenge earlier in 2016 from a California pilot, the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed in September that Ernie is indeed the oldest active pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration confirms that he is the oldest license holder in their records, too, which means his love affair with flying and planes has been going on for more than 90 years. His health and skill in the cockpit are the envy of men decades younger, and Ernie is determined to keep flying as long as he lives.

And finally, Anastassia Ontou, of central Greece, recently served as a surrogate for her daughter, giving birth to her own granddaughter at the age of 67!.  Anastassia’s daughter Constantina has been unable to have her own child, and at age 43 herself, isn’t likely to conceive naturally. Anastassia enjoyed a problem-free pregnancy, and gave birth to her granddaughter by c-section after a 7 ½ month pregnancy. The family’s obstetrician calls Anastassia ‘heroic’, but she herself said it was an easy decision to help her heartbroken daughter, who has suffered through seven failed pregnancies. Anastassia is recognized as the world’s oldest surrogate mother, but the title of grandmother is much more important to her than anything the Guinness Book of Records calls her.