9 Inspiring People Who Made Big Changes Late in Life

There are some people who realize what they want to do early on in life, and stick with it until the bitter end. Then there are others who are more realistic – those who accept that life throws you curveballs, and the best way to handle them is to adapt. Here are a few people who made major changes later in life, and came out all the better for trying something new.

Tim and Nina Zagat

Tim and Nina Zagat are the masterminds behind the Zagat restaurant rating guide. It revolutionized the way that restaurants are rated — measuring them on a few different point scales, summarizing the ratings with a short paragraph at the end.

The Zagats met at the Yale School of Law and graduated in 1966. They practiced law for almost 20 years before coming up with the idea of a restaurant ratings handbook together. After moving to Paris, they worked out the kinks of their rating system by reviewing all of their favorite restaurants together. When they moved back to the States, they released their first Zagat book using their personal rating system on their favorite restaurants in New York City.

Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses is a famous American folk artist who didn’t even pick up a paintbrush until she was 78 years old! Although she was interested in embroidery, quilting, and other handiwork her whole life, she only took up painting when her hands became too painful with arthritis to hold a needle and thread.

Her paintings are renowned throughout the States and all around the world because of her simple and direct style. The primary subject of her paintings is rural American farm life — she entirely omitted new inventions like telephone poles and cars from her work, preferring to paint the world as she remembered it from her youth.

Roger Higgins / Library of Congress

Roger Higgins / Library of Congress

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan had a successful career as an actor before going into politics. From the 1930s to 1960s, Reagan worked as a radio announcer before taking a 7-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios that saw him work primarily in B-films until he was offered his first on-screen credit in a 1937 movie called Love is on the Air.

Reagan began his career in politics in 1948, and although he was always active on the sidelines, he didn’t step into the spotlight until 1964. From there, it was only 3 years until he was elected as Governor of California, and finally, President of the United States in 1981.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Ellen DeGeneres

Although it seems hard to believe that we ever lived in a world without The Ellen DeGeneres Show playing in syndication all afternoon, it actually took a long time for DeGeneres to achieve the fame she now enjoys. She didn’t start touring as a comedian until she was over 30 years old, and before that she worked as a law clerk, as a waitress, and in retail.

Even though she was performing comedy regularly in small venues, it took a while for her to get her start in television. Her first major success was with her sitcom, Ellen, in 1994.

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Andrea Bocelli

Although Andrea Bocelli is known around the world for his amazing singing voice, he didn’t actually start pursuing music as a career until he was 35 years old. In his earlier life, he sang in piano bars as a way of making some extra money on the side. During the day, he practiced law as a public defender.

His big break came in 1992 when he was offered the chance to record a tape of an Italian pop-opera song to send to famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti realized how talented Bocelli was, and offered him a spot touring Europe with him that year. Almost 25 years later, Bocelli regularly gives solo concerts in venues around the globe.

Zoran Karapancev / Shutterstock.com

Zoran Karapancev / Shutterstock.com

Julia Child

The woman that we know now as Julia Child was born Julia McWilliams in 1912 in California. She grew up in privilege as the daughter of two independently wealthy parents, and they made sure that she had every advantage in her childhood. After attending college, and after a brief (and unsuccessful) stint as a journalist, Julia joined the Office of Strategic Service, who used her to transfer top-secret government documents around the globe.

She married Paul Child in 1946, and they moved to Paris two years later. While she was there, she decided to give cooking a try, and set about adapting complicated French recipes to suit the American palate. Her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, remains a bestseller to this day.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Popular children’s book author Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 years old when she had her first book published, in 1932. The book was based on her life growing up on farms in Wisconsin and Missouri. Her book, Little House in the Big Woods was the first of many autobiographical books that Wilder wrote about her life. After her death in 1957, her daughter Rose published a few of her unfinished manuscripts and diaries posthumously.


Walt Disney

Walt Disney, who most people know as the mastermind and primary imagination behind the entire Disney brand, started his career as a caricaturist for a local newspaper, before jumping into advertising.

In 1923, he pooled his remaining money with his brother to found an animation studio called “Laugh-O-Gram.” When this studio folded, Walt looked around for a new idea, before drawing up a little cartoon figure that came to be known as Mickey Mouse. In 1929, Mickey was featured in his first movie, a silent film entitled Plane Crazy, and the rest is history.

Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

Sylvester Stallone

Known for his iconic film characters Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, Sly Stallone didn’t start his career as an actor. He first worked as a movie usher, before moving on to cleaning the lion’s cages at the Central Park Zoo.

His first film roles didn’t come until he was in his 30s, and even then, they were uncredited and non-speaking. His big break was in a film that he co-wrote: Rocky. His perseverance and hard work paid off — it took years before he could find a studio that would let him star in his own film. After Rocky became a runaway success, Stallone found the world of Hollywood open to him at last.

Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

May 31, 2016