Vote for your pick for 2016 Trailblazer of the Year!

Finalists Announced - How To Vote

Earlier this year, SN50 announced its search for seniors who embodied this publication's philosophy of living life to the fullest at every age. Trailblazers don't let the date on their birth certificate predicate what is possible. They blaze a trail by writing their own future, doing it their way, creating the life they want regardless of the obstacles in their path.

One of the main eligibility requirements was that nominees must have demonstrated their ability to overcome obstacles, defy stereotypes, or make a radical change in the path their life was taking after the age of 50. They must have reached the age of 65 by May 1st. Our independent panel of judges reviewed the nominee submissions and the following finalists were selected.

After reading about each of the finalists, vote online for your choice for Trailblazer of the Year. It's easy. Click the link at the end of this page and the voting window will open so you can make your selection. That's all there is to it! Voting closes on Dec. 31st, and the winner will be announced on this website in January, and their full story will appear in the print edition of SN50 in February.


At the age of 70, Emily achieved a lifelong dream. Earlier this year, she was offered a contract by an elite modeling agency in Chicago, one whose staff is totally supportive of encouraging seniors in the modeling industry. Calling herself a late bloomer, Emily harbored the dream of exploring this possible encore career for many years, and has already been chosen to make videos and appear in "extra" spots in television movies.

Achieving this dream was not planned, and yet it was the culmination of many years spent overcoming health challenges and beating the odds when mainstream medicine offered a very poor prognosis of her condition. In her 50s, she sustained serious rotator cuff tears to both shoulders. She was told surgery was the only option, and that she would endure lifelong chronic pain afterwards. But Emily knew better. The practice of T'ai Chi, along with revamping her diet and lifestyle, eventually allowed her to beat this painful and debilitating condition. Today, she says, her body is completely pain-free.

Emily's desire to reach out and help others led her to open a T'ai Chi studio at the age of 64. Her practice grew to attract students of all ages, including a 94-year-old woman. All her students gained significant help benefits from the practice, and one overcame carpel tunnel impingement and was able to cancel her upcoming surgery as a result. She intends to continue sharing her knowledge of this powerful yet gentle health discipline to many others, well into the future.

Emily was actually nominated by two people, one of whom praised the nominee's tireless efforts in founding and single-handedly running a dog rescue since 2008. Emily developed a network through which she rescued dogs in high-kill shelters. When she learned of a particular litter being held at such a shelter in Georgia and could not make contact with the shelter by phone, she drove straight to Georgia to claim the animals, and went on to find loving homes for each of them. Her nominator, Nicki Schmitt, had this to say: "The moral of the story? Emily's extreme dedication to her passion is a lesson to others to never give up, never stop trying, and when you think there is no way, find one."

"As we age," Emily said, "we MUST continue to keep a positive outlook on life and see past temporary setbacks. Movement is the key! That, if any, is the moral of my story. Movement of our bodies, continual movement of our minds away from negative stimuli, and a strong spiritual base will keep us fulfilled and content no matter what our circumstances."


Nancy, at the age of 70, continues to run the family business started by her great-grandfather. She is very dedicated to this endeavor, not only because it is the family business, but also because she is largely responsible for rebuilding it when she was in her 40s. The growth of the "big box stores" created competition for the small family-owned lumber and home improvement center that eventually put them out of business. Nancy realized the lumber and building product business was all she knew, and set out to rebuild her great-grandfather's original business concept.

Although reinventing the business occurred prior to the age of 50 specified for Trailblazer status, Nancy added a second avocation at the age of 70. When a flying squirrel found its way into her home during a remodeling project, she shared the humorous story with her grandsons, who encouraged her to turn the story into a book. The Secret Drawer was well-received, and was followed by a sequel, The Secret Path, both of which have received the Mom's Choice Award. Nancy reads the stories at local schools, and in fact turned the readings into a project for the children. She read the unfinished manuscript of The Secret Path to a group of students, inviting them to write reviews which were then included on the back cover of the second book.

Her publishing adventure led to another accomplishment. Beginning last summer, Nancy started teaching a course on how to write children's books for Morraine Valley College.

"As new paths appear in all our lives," Nancy wrote, I want everyone of all ages to step out of your comfort zone and try new things that enrich your life as well as others. Keep in mind that if you are not successful, you can't live life without the failures. Failure is simply success turned wrong side out!"


At the age of 50, Cathy wanted to write a book about aging well. Her son told her she wasn't old enough yet! So she waited, researched, gained experience through living, at 20 years later, published Elixir of Youth: Secrets of a Spring Chicken Who Sprang to Life. The book is her personal collection of wisdom and recipes emphasizing glamorous, healthy living, encouraging the reader to "refire, not retire" their passion in life.

Cathi is on a mission to redefine the stereotypes that surround the aging experience. In 2013, she participated in the Fight for Air Climb by the American Lung Association, making the 50-flight climb in 24 minutes. A year later, at the age of 80, she completed the climb in only 9 minutes, 9 seconds, shaving 15 minutes off her climb.

"I've bared my soul and secrets in my book," Cathi said. "Yes, we're living longer, but not necessarily better. The book is a road map directing and educating regardless of gender, age and ethnicity.

"Your life has meaning," she continued. "There's a place reserved just for you to fill. Don't go to the very end with your dream still dancing in your heart."