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5 Inventors who Created Products in their Senior Years

By Jan Bolder - April 29, 2014

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Inventing creations may be thought of as a young person's game, but they just don't have the years of experience and wisdom to really fine-tune a product. When seniors invent creations, they're able to tap into decades of knowledge and foresight, two critical qualities necessary to invent something useful. In the following list of famous senior inventors, we'll take a look at some of their creations that have served an essential need in society that young people probably wouldn't have been able to address.

Benjamin Franklin — Bifocal Glasses

Apart from a small handful of young adults with medical conditions, the need for bifocals is primarily reserved for the 40+ demographic. Our eyes gradually get weaker as we age, leading to the double whammy of having difficulty seeing things both up close and far away. The first glasses were invented in the mid-13th century, but they were a piece of glass placed directly on the eye and only good to correct far-sightedness (being able to see distance with ease and having trouble seeing things closer). But at the ripe age of 78, Benjamin Franklin created bifocal glasses, giving seniors everywhere the ability to see both up close and far away at the same time.

Peter Mark Roget — Thesaurus

We've all heard of Roget's Thesaurus, a book that's helped countless people flesh out essays and arguments. But how many of us are aware that he was well into his 70s before he published the gold standard of synonyms? Roget had already amassed a sizeable list of inventions to his name before (long-slide ruler, several entries for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, contribution to inventing motion pictures), but the first edition of the thesaurus was published when he was 73. To boot, he supervised all the revisions for the next 17 years until his death, showing he was still quite capable of high-level work.

George Weiss — Dabble

It may have taken 84 years and 80 failed inventions, but George Weiss finally broke through with a game called Dabble. Players get 20 tiles with letters on them and have to come up with words as fast as they can, only being allowed five minutes to do so. It's the kind of game that's marketable to all age groups, and Creative Child Magazine agreed: Weiss was awarded the 2011 Game of the Year award in the Family Word Games category, showing that age and persistence really do pay off.

Charles Greeley Abbott — Solar Cooker

For much of his life, Abbott was a dedicated astrophysicist who would become a Secretary of the Smithsonian at age 56, while still maintaining his position as Director of the Astrophysical Society. He may have had his hands pretty full with work, but still found time to invent the solar cooker at age 99, becoming the oldest person to receive a patent. Abbott would die two years later, but his record as oldest inventor stills stands.

Gys van Beek — Trucker's Friend

This Dutch-American war hero was constantly thinking up new ideas well into his senior years, applying for new patents and joining the elite club of the world's oldest inventors. Among his many creations, van Beek is best known for Trucker's Friend, a sort of big-size Swiss Army knife for truckers. It features an axe, hammer, nail puller, tire chain hook, pry bar and lever, and wire twist, and is used by truckers in "any situation that requires hacking, prying, pulling or pounding".

The above five inventors have created products that fill a big market in their respective societies, drawing upon years of knowledge and experience to get it right. They also had the advantages of history and persistence, making it much more likely their products would succeed than if they had attempted them when they were younger.