Senioritis

Older Than Pope Benedict & Still Going Strong: Betty White & More (PHOTOS)

At age 85, Pope Benedict is hanging up his hat, citing old age. Should Betty White and Queen Elizabeth follow suit?

AP/Getty

AP/Getty

The world is reeling from the news that Pope Benedict XVI is giving up his direct line to God early, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The 85-year-old cited his own deteriorating health and old age as the reason for giving three weeks’ notice. Many are flabbergasted and some even upset that Pope Benedict is failing to carry his lifetime appointment to, well, life. It’s not like there’s never been an old pope before. But others commend His Holiness for having the wisdom to step down while he still has his wits about him. Should others follow suit? As the debate over Pope Benedict’s resignation continues, here’s a look at notable people who are actually older than the pontiff and still going strong … for better or worse.

Pool Photo by Paul Rogers, via Getty

Queen Elizabeth

Following Pope Benedict’s decision to step down, eyes are quickly turning to the world’s other famous octogenarian leader. If old age is enough for Benedict to abdicate the papal office, some are wondering if 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II would be wise to vacate her throne as well. Do you think Prince Charles rang his mum to make sure she was watching the news?

Katy Winn/Invision/AP

Betty White

TV’s Golden Girl is, at 91, busier—and saucier—than ever. “Now that I’m 91, as opposed to being 90, I’m much wiser,” the Hot in Cleveland star and Off Their Rockers host joked during a televised special in honor of her birthday last week. “I’m much more aware and I’m much sexier.” Sure, Betty White doesn’t seem to have lost an ounce of her trademark sharpness, but the legion of TV fans who cherish the Emmy winner probably wouldn’t mind it if she lightened her workload—if only to ensure she hangs around even longer.

Ron Edmonds/AP (L)

Rep. Ralph Hall, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Rep. John Dingell

There is not just one congressman who is older than Pope Benedict, but three. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) will turn 90 in May. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is 89, and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is 86. Of course, neither man holds a candle to Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who served until he was 100. Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) once even cracked that “the best nursing home is the U.S. Senate” during a campaign to have Thurmond step down due to diminished mental capacity.

Ross Taylor/AP

David Murdock

Apparently, pineapples do a body good. At least that could be one takeaway from the reign of David H. Murdock, who at 89 years old has been chairman of Dole Food Company, Inc. since 1985. In a 2011 New York Times profile, Murdock bragged, “I never have anything go wrong. Never have a backache. Never have a headache.” And don’t expect him to pull a Benedict. As the Times’s headline suggests, Murdock is already planning ahead to his 125th birthday.

Jim Cole/AP

Carol Channing

If you clock the amount of time Broadway’s oldest baby, Carol Channing, has spent singing the title song from Hello, Dolly!, it would likely exceed the amount of time Pope Benedict spent as head of the Catholic Church. At 92 years old, Channing still gamely struts out her stage-ready gams and enthusiastic brassy, breathy voice for appearances, including recently at the Kennedy Center Honors. The original Dolly Levi was even the subject of last year’s hit documentary, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

BB King

Give B.B. King credit. The 87-year-old blues god has weathered the music industry through disco, Vanilla Ice, the boy-band boom, and Ke$ha, never once turning his back on it. And he’s still going strong, regularly playing gigs. Happen to be in Michigan in April? Check out the legend at the Four Wind’s Silver Creek Event Center.

Isaac Brekken/AP

Chuck Yeager

As some people get up in age, they become too afraid or too frail to fly. Not only is that not the case for 89-year-old Chuck Yeager, but he’s even flying faster than the speed of sound. Sixty-five years after he became the first human to break the speed of sound in flight, Yeager strapped into the back seat of an F-15 Eagle to break the sound barrier once again last October. “I’ll be 90 in February, and while I’m not gonna run no marathon I still hunt and fly,” Yeager said, in the understatement of the year.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Fauja Singh

Fauja Singh, however, will run a marathon. The 101-year-old British Sikh has, like Pope Benedict, announced his retirement … from marathon running. Shockingly, Singh didn’t begin running marathons until age 89, and has since run five London Marathons and a total of eight races. His 26-mile swan song will be the Hong Kong Marathon on Feb. 24, as he acknowledges that age has finally caught up to him. “But I will keep running to inspire the masses,” he says. “Running is my life and I really would not have stopped competing if I had not crossed the age of 100.” So, yes, at age 101, Fauja Singh will have run his ninth marathon. On your way to the gym yet?

Carlos Osorio/AP

Elmore Leonard

Whip-smart novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard has already carved out an impressive résumé; some of his novels including Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and 3:10 to Yuma have been adapted into major films, and his popular character Raylan Givens was spun off into the hit FX series Justified. In 2012, Leonard added another chapter to the Raylan Givens story with the release of Raylan. And so at age 87, Leonard is as successful and productive as ever—much to the delight of the new fans he has won thanks to Justified.

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Robert Mugabe

To say that a dictatorial president may be outstaying his welcome may be stating the obvious. Still, at age 88 and reportedly ailing, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe could be considered a case in point for the argument that once a world leader hits a certain age, it’s time to step down. And it’s not likely that there will be very many people upset by that.