11 Seniors Who Made Our Year

Meet some of the women and men who rocked our boat in 2015.

Jessie Gallan

Jessie Galan didn’t make our 2015 because she turned 109 on January 2 — or because she eats a lot of porridge (she is Scottish, after all). We loved her longevity “secret.” Galan attributed her long life to “staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.” The centenarian, who apparently has a wicked sense of humor, went viral.


“I’ve never had to depend on anybody. I’ve had my ups and downs, maybe, but I’m fine.”

Men aside, Galant remained socially active through her life and passed away on March 26, 2015 after just two weeks of poor health.

Helen Mirren

For being Helen Mirren. When asked about Hollywood’s ageism on TheWrap’s New York Power Breakfast, she said:


And continued:

“We all sat there watching as James Bond got more and more geriatric, and his girlfriends got younger and younger. It’s so annoying.”

The Dancers of Uptown Funk

Style meets swagger in the “oldtown cover” of Uptown Funk, which in February clocked up more than a million views over three days. The video’s “grandpas” are members of a group founded in the ’70s by African-American members of the Church of Latter Day Saints in response to discriminatory church law. The “grandmas” (everyone in the video is, in fact, a grandparent or great-grandparent) belong to a senior dance troupe, known locally in Utah as Jean’s Golden Girls — 100 or so older women, many in their 80s and 90s, who meet almost weekly to perform at basketball games and other events.


 Morrie Markoff

Morrie Markoff made our year twice! A retired machinist, Markoff had his first art show at age 100 in a hip downtown LA gallery. We visited him in his downtown loft early in 2015 and loved what he had to say about creativity, technology and the shifting priorities of older age. Then, when Morrie and his wife Betty, 99, celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary in November, photographer Karsten Thormaehlen paid them a visit and took this photograph. Read Morrie’s written response to the photo! 

Photo: © 2015 Karsten Thormaehlen. Morrie (101) and Betty Markoff (99) at their apartment, Los Angeles CA, USA, photographed on Oct. 31, 2015
Photo: © 2015 Karsten Thormaehlen. Morrie (101) and Betty Markoff (99) at their apartment, Los Angeles CA, USA, photographed on Oct. 31, 2015

“Creativity is living. You are alive when you create. If someone gets an inspiration to do something, I would encourage them to follow it.”

This Human of New York

According to one commenter on the Humans of New York Facebook page, her name is Patricia and she is a”badass revolutionary” — an advocate for peace and social justice. She’s also an “amazing photographer.” HONY creator Brandon Stanton posted this portrait of Patricia in April.


“I was on a trip in Saskatchewan, and I took this baby up a mountain. Boy did she fucking roll! There were trails but I didn’t even use them.”

These dementia patients (and the Brazilian TV station that made the video)

In May, Brazilian radio station 89FM released a video they’d made for AC/DC guitarist-founder Malcolm Young, who had left the band after being diagnosed with dementia. The video shows fellow dementia patients reminiscing eloquently about rock ‘n roll and rocking out to Young’s music. “Malcolm,” this wonderful video offers, “…Most of their memories have disappeared. And you see, while listening to your riffs, what they clearly forgot was their dementia.”

“Rock would make you bubble inside.” “It’s beautiful, that beauty in the movements, you know.” “Love, sex, altogether… bang! It was the bomb!”

Ingeborg Rapoport

In May, Ingebord Rapoport finally defended her PhD thesis in her Berlin home, earning her doctorate — she was 102. Seventy-eight years earlier, the Nazis had denied her the chance to take the oral exam. Rapoport admitted that it wasn’t easy taking her exam after all these years, but she did it for the victims of the Third Reich and, she said, as a step forward into a better future. She passed magna cum laude. (Read more here.)


“For me personally, the degree didn’t mean anything.”

This man, because he’s dancing like it’s 2015

And this woman, because she’s really feeling it

On a street in Belgium, while walking her dog…

Violet Palmer

In June, a blind 92-year-old decided to engage in her first ever protest after a local law nullified a voter-approved ban on fracking. Palmer joined her 64-year-old son at the fracking site in Denton; her son chained himself to the fence, and she occupied a rocking chair next to him. After the two were arrested, Palmer told the press, “I didn’t think it could happen here. To have their vote just taken away, just destroyed, ignored, and it was very upsetting.” (Watch the news report here.)


“This is not about my age. This is about my vote.”

Baddie Winkle

On her Instagram account, Baddie Winkle says 2015 has been her best year yet. That may be because the 86-year-old has had a blast amassing 1.7 million followers by breaking every rule in the book on aging — including the one about acting with dignity. The Instagram star, whose tagline reads “Stealing your man since 1926,” was featured in a campaign by street-fashion band Dimepiece in March and ended up all over the Internet; Senior Planet interviewed her in April and concluded that while her younger family members might have put her up to it, the attitude is all hers.


“All of my friends are old like me and they don’t do too much, but I always tell them to get off their butt and get out there and do their thing!”

Stephen Goodenough

He was in the running for this year’s Nobel Prize for his invention of the groundbreaking lithium-ion battery (it’s made laptops, cellphones and other portable devices possible). Goodenough didn’t win the Nobel Prize in October, but at 92, he had other things to think about. In his office at the University of Texas, Austin, he was working on an idea for a new super-battery — one that would make electric cars as easy to use as gas-powered vehicles and allow us to efficiently store solar and wind energy. If he succeeds, it will be a game-changer. (Read more about Goodenough at Wikipedia.)


“I want to solve the problem before I throw my chips in. I’m only 92. I still have time to go.”


Who did we miss? Let us know in the comments section below!

Sign up for our weekly email to get regular news about aging with attitude


Featured photo of Helen Mirren: tompickenfrets, Flikr



4 responses to “11 Seniors Who Made Our Year

  1. How very interesting. There are no mountains in Saskatchewan. None. Not even a foothill. There is a town called Wood Mountain. I’s founders are emblematic of the hopefulness that characterizes the people from that flat Prairie land.

    1. Old people whom I revere and idolize are women’s rights leaders Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys.

      If you don’t know who they are it’s because women who fight for women’s rights aka feminists are still not given the accolades they deserve. We still prefer the ones who just play feminists on tv or in them movies over the women who risk their lives for us. And if you think that’s an exaggeration, google how many times each of these women has been delivered death threats for their advocacy on behalf of women.

Leave a Reply

Senior Planet’s comments are open for all readers/subscribers; we love hearing from you! However, some comments are not welcome here as violations of our Comment Policy. If you would like to express a comment about Senior Planet locations or programs, please contact Want to continue the conversation? Start your own discussion on this topic on Senior Planet Community.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *