With an increasing number of people living until an advanced age, role models are needed for those whose later years are approaching. Unfortunately, the elderly are frequently underrepresented in culture, with younger faces being given the limelight more often.
For some celebrities, retirement is a choice, while for others work becomes scarce, due to a lack of demand. Either way, this means that the oldest members of society can be left feeling unseen.
In this article, Lottie shares a list of the oldest celebrities in the world, to help encourage the representation of seniors. Read on to learn more about the continuing achievements of these icons.
A beloved American entertainer, Dick Van Dyke is renowned for physical comedy and buckets of charm. Born in Missouri, he was introduced to acting at school, although was only able to begin pursuing it professionally later in life, due to being drafted to serve in the Second World War.
Once his performing career started, Van Dyke quickly established himself as a family favourite, on both American television and film. His best-remembered role is almost certainly as Burt the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins, in which he famously speaks with a questionable but endearing Cockney accent.
Over the course of his long and varied career, Van Dyke became a legend of American show business. As a result, he’s received Emmys, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a Kennedy Centre Honor.
Van Dyke has continued working in recent years, despite being in his 90s. In 2018 he appeared in Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to the original film, in which he sings and tap dances with as much charisma and vigour as ever.
Tony Bennett made a name for himself using his smooth, soulful voice, with which he sang jazz and big band standards.
Born in New York, Bennett served in the military during World War II, before starting his performing career in the 1950s. He went on to score hits for decades, with his best-remembered being the ballad “I Left my Heart in San Francisco”.
Following a career lull around the turn of the millennium, Bennett enjoyed a late resurgence, singing alongside other artists. Collaborating with Lady Gaga, he released Cheek to Cheek in 2014, which reached number one in the US and made Bennett the oldest person to have topped the album charts.
Sadly, Bennett has now retired from performing, to focus on his health following an Alzheimer's diagnosis. However, he went out in style, releasing his final record at 95 and securing a Guinness World Record as the oldest person to release an album of all new material.
An actress and model, Marsha Hunt began her career in the 1930s and is one of the last living performers from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Hunt was born in Chicago to a middle-class family but soon moved to New York, where her parents encouraged her to pursue her passion for theatre.
At 17, Hunt made the move to Los Angeles and was quickly signed by Paramount Pictures to appear in their movies. Despite not rising to the same level of stardom as some of her contemporaries, she worked consistently until her semi-retirement in the 1960s and appeared opposite Hollywood legends, such as Greer Garson and Mickey Rooney.
After moving away from show business in the 1960s, Hunt began to dedicate her life to charity work. She became an active patron for The Red Cross and UNICEF, as well as working with the United Nations.
While she’s not a household name, Hunt is one of the last remaining links to an iconic period of Hollywood history. She is now the oldest member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the body that awards Oscars each year.
A titan of American music, Burt Bacharach was born in Kansas and grew up in New York City. He studied classical composition from a young age, giving him the foundations to write some of the most beloved songs in pop history.
Beginning his career in the 1950s, Bacharach went on to compose for some of the greatest singers, musicals and films of the twentieth century. Over the course of this decades-long career, he worked with huge stars, including Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Tom Jones, penning some of their most enduring hits.
Songs like “I Say a Little Prayer” and “(They Long to Be) Close to You” conquered the music charts, whilst further acclaim was achieved for movie soundtracks, such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. For this varied and impressive career, Bacharach and his partner, Hal David, were honoured on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
Now in his 90s, Bacharach remains an active figure in the music industry. In 2020, he released a new song called “Bridges”, written in collaboration with up-and-comer Melody Federer.
With her chunky black glasses and bold accessories, Iris Apfel has been a fashion icon for decades. Now over 100 years old, her timeless sense of style continues to influence creatives of all ages.
Born in New York, Apfel’s mother owned a small boutique, meaning she was surrounded by beautiful clothing from an early age. Observing her mother’s work helped Iris to develop her own taste, providing the foundations for her whole career.
Apfel first rose to prominence alongside her husband Carl, founding Old World Weavers together. The company specialised in sourcing historic fabrics and did so for the White House under nine separate presidents.
Since retiring in 1992, age has proved no obstacle to Apfel and her star has continued to rise. She recently signed with a modelling agency and has amassed over two million Instagram followers, carving a place for older people in areas that are often assumed to be for the young.
Whether you know her as Beauty and the Beast’s singing teapot or for playing writer-turned-sleuth Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury’s years as a successful actress have won her legions of fans.
Originally from London, Lansbury emigrated to America as a teenager with her mother. Here, she studied acting and quickly began scoring roles in stage and film.
Having undergone numerous transformations, Lansbury’s career possibly reached its peak in the 1980s, when she began starring in Murder She Wrote. The show, about a mystery writer who helps to solve crimes, ran for 12 seasons and became a TV classic.
Receiving her first Oscar nomination in the 1940s, Lansbury has since won an Honorary Academy Award, five Tonys, six Golden Globes, and was made a Dame in 2014. Although she’s slowed down in recent years, her career continues and she recently appeared in Mary Poppins Returns, alongside Dick Van Dyke!
One of the busiest jobbing actors in American television, Nehemiah Persoff worked consistently from the 1950s until his retirement towards the end of the 20th century. A talented character actor, he was relied upon to play believable supporting characters and he has over 200 credits on his IMDb page.
Persoff was originally born in Jerusalem, in 1919, but moved to New York with his family as a child. He initially began working as an actor in the 1930s, but his career began in earnest after his return from fighting in the Second World War.
Appearing in legendary television shows and films, Persoff became a familiar face for most Americans, if not a household name. His most well-known credits include Some Like it Hot and Yentl, playing the father of Barbra Streisand in the latter.
Following his retirement from acting, Persoff established a career as a successful painter. With over 100 completed watercolours, his works are exhibited across California.
And that concludes Lottie’s list of the oldest celebs in the world. Whether still working or retired, the achievements of each of them show that age should be no barrier to achievement.