If you looked at Willie Rios' medical chart, you might not think he's in very good shape. He is 82 years old and undergoes monthly chemotherapy for prostate cancer. But Rios has run more than 40 marathons in the last 20 years. Rios is not alone. CBS Correspondent John Roberts reports.
Rios and 145 other people over the age of 70 competed in Sunday's New York City marathon. Rios' marathon success is another step in changing not only how we think about growing old but perhaps the process of growing old itself.
Dr. Miriam Nelson's research at Tufts University in Boston found that previously sedentary seniors who worked out twice a week were able to change their lives, both physically and mentally.
"They would be more active in their everyday lives and...emotionally, they would be so much stronger and happier. We had no idea so much would happen," said Nelson.
"Now I have the physical ability to do the kind of things that I want to do and try things I want to try, and I have the confidence to do those things," says Barron.
According to Dr. Nelson, it is never too late to get physically active. "At any age," she says, "the body is incredibly resilient. You can reverse much of the aging process, 20, 30 or 40 years even if you are 60, 70 or 90 years of age."
There are now almost 73 million people over the age of 50 and that number will swell to over 114 million by the year 2020.
Dr. Bruce Clark co-founded Age Wave, an assortment of companies catering to older Americans, believes seniors who have a youthful outlook and money to spend are being ignored by corporate America.
"Marketers are very young and do a relatively poor job of portraying what it is like to be olderÂ…We're in love with that 18- to 49-year-old segment and kind of lump older people in one bunch," says Dr. Clark.
Whether our nation feels good as it gets older is still to be seen. But this week, the gift of living well into old age was celebrated by a 77-year-old in space and an 82-year-old running a marathon.