Think innovation is only for the young? Sometimes, we mistakenly think that only younger entrepreneurs will have the energy, drive, and originality to start new businesses. The younger, creative person is seen as someone with "fresh eyes" and a new way to "disrupt" old solutions.
But, research suggests that older entrepreneurs may be more common than you would think--and more successful than their younger upstarts. Inventors, for instance, may be more successful at an older age. Not only that, but older workers are skilled and experienced, and can offer new perspectives into a company's needs--all necessary factors for innovation.
While it's becoming clearer that entrepreneurs and innovators in their late 30s, 40s and 50s are making a difference--what about people even older, like in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even beyond? Here are four sexagenarian (60s), septuagenarian (70s), and octogenarians (80s) who are still innovating today--and they are all women to boot.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
You probably know Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as the first woman to be appointed to and serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice O'Connor is now in her late 80s, but even after she retired from the Supreme Court, she has continued to find new ways to teach people about government and civics. She spearheaded the creation of OurCourts.org, which later turned into iCivics, a non-profit civic education and advocacy organization that offers a website with free teaching resources and civic learning games. For instance, their game Win the White House lets you run a mock presidential campaign and Executive Command lets you be the president and make executive decisions.
Dr. Patricia Bath
Dr. Patricia Bath is 75 years old and still helping people see better. An ophthalmologist, she was the inventor of the Laserphaco Probe, which removed cataracts from eyes, helping restore vision for many. Dr. Bath has held many "firsts" throughout her long career as a doctor, researcher, inventor and advocate for the blind, including being the first African American women to receive a medically-related patent and the first female ophthalmologist at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. She also was a founding board member of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness. More recently, she has continued to advocate for the blind, and served on a commission for digital accessibility for the blind during the Obama administration.
You may have heard of an exhibit called "Infinity Mirrors," which had long lines at top museums like the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. a few years ago. The unique and mesmerizing exhibit was created by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, now in her late 80s, who created infinity mirror rooms in the 1960s, and still creates a variety of art today. The Infinity Museums exhibit has now traveled to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, while other works are on show at the David Zwirner gallery in NYC.
Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey is in her 60s and until 2017 was the CEO/President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an organization that supports health, policy and medical-related innovation. Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey's interdisciplinary approach to geriatric medicine and health policy (her specialties) comes in part from her dual medical and business degrees. She was designated, as recently as 2016, as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes, and continues to innovate as a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, a program that specifically looks for people who bring together different fields to solve problems and find innovative solutions.