Why Ability And Willpower Stump Age-Defying Norms

Age-Defying Norms
Serena Williams became one of the greatest athletes of our time and retired recently at 40. With 319 weeks as World No. 1, 96 career titles, 39 Grand Slams, entrepreneurial ventures, and activism, the highest-earning female athlete ever is and will always be unstoppable. Right there, it makes her a prime example of why we need to break boundaries and defy age-related norms. 

Age-defying norms have paved the way for stereotyping across professions. Everything we do comes in the set bracket of age. Age in years does not correlate with maturity or experience because chronological age doesn’t equal physical or mental age. Your body may be younger than your actual age. This is also true of one’s mental maturity. Age cannot be a reflection of maturity because, with situations, uncertainties, passions, and ambition, anything is possible regardless of how young or old people are. While older people may achieve unmountable things and milestones in their lives or adopt something new, the younger generation can find solutions to some grave problems in no time with their terrific abilities and maturity. We cannot box abilities based on age-defining boundaries, nor can we recognise abilities based on age.

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How sportspersons are Age-Defying Norms?

Other athletes have been shining examples of how willpower, mental toughness, and the desire to keep going can defy age and smash boundaries. Man Kaur, India’s oldest female athlete, broke down age-defining barriers in 2018 as she competed in the World Championship. The 102-year-old earned a gold medal at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Spain after winning the 200 m race medal in the 100-104 age group. What’s interesting here is that Kaur began her sporting career at age of 93.

In the world of sports, it is assumed that solely age determines almost everything, including skill level, body development, stamina, and playing ability. It wasn’t the case then, and it isn’t the case now. Sure, there are technicalities, but age alone cannot be a deterrent in deciding the length of a sportsperson’s career. The most path-breaking athletes have been those who have refused to comply with the accepted understanding of when an athlete should retire and have proven that age is indeed just a number.

Dara Torres, at 41, became the oldest U.S. Olympic swimmer in history. Torres won three medals at the Games and set an American record in the 50m freestyle. India’s tennis star Sania Mirza has defied odds – playing for a long haul, making a comeback, or embracing motherhood. Anitha Pauldurai, captain of the Indian Women’s National basketball team, has played for 18 years in the national team. Indian cricket and trailblazer Mithali Raj shares the feat of playing for 20 years and has had a glorious run on the field. The list doesn’t end.

One can begin a career or adopt a new direction in life at any point in life?

The general notion in society of linking wisdom with age has been time and again questioned and shackled by people. These people have been game changers in their respective fields because they went past the traditional cycle of age-defined career paths and lived their lives. 

A few years ago, the United States-based Gitanjali Rao, then 11 years old, became America’s top young scientist. Rao’s invention of a cheap device that rapidly tests water for lead contamination fetched her the title. She took merely five months to complete the project. When 77-year-old Urmila Asher started her food business after her grandson’s death. Asher channelled her struggles into her passion for food and started Gujju Ben Na Nashta, a Gujarati snack business. Within a year, her revenue touched Rs. 45 lacs. Rao and Asher have gone beyond their age limits to achieve their goals.

There is immense pressure on teenagers to decide their future at an early age. No one tells them to explore and then follow their calling. Similarly, older people face a lot of flak if and when they step out of their homes to try something new. This lifetime offers a plethora of opportunities to explore. It is okay to start young or old and change career paths as long as you’re passionate. Age is not a definite indication of our wisdom or strength, and if we try and follow our individual timelines, our one act of willpower can age-defying norms. 

The views expressed are the author’s own.