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Learning from an Older Generation: Self-Motivation

The second in a series considering lessons that can be learnt from an older generation

by Philippa Rae

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage mutual understanding and respect across the generations.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show the images of various sports.

    Ask the children the following questions.

    - Do they play any sports?
    - What is their favourite sport?
    - Is there a new sport that they would like to try?
    - Why do they enjoy sport?

    Listen to a range of responses.

  2. Point out that sport or active exercise is a great way for us to keep fit. Along with eating well, being physically fit is essential if we are to be healthy. Keeping fit can also be great fun, and can challenge us to try new things. When we commit time to exercise regularly, it helps us to develop the ability to be self-motivated, which means to do something for ourselves.

  3. Ask the children the following question:

    - At what age do you think you should stop doing sport?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Explain that this assembly looks at some inspirational people who have broken records in their chosen sport. The surprise is that all of these people are over 70 years old! They all believe that age is no barrier to achieving a dream. They believe that with dedication and determination, great things can be achieved.

  4. Around the world, there are many national and international sporting competitions that provide opportunities for older people to take part in different sports. For example, the World Masters Athletics Championships are held every two years for athletes who are over 35 years old. The Championships include all of the track and field events that are expected in an athletics competition. People in their eighties and nineties still compete!

  5. The following video shows the final of the men’s over-75 100-metre race from the 2016 World Masters Athletics Championship.

    Show the video, ‘2016 World Masters Athletics M75 100m Final - Barrie Kernaghan Wins 14.33 +3.1’.

  6. The following video shows Johanna Quaas, an 86-year-old gymnast, performing a routine on the beam.

    Show the video, ‘Johanna Quaas 86 Year Old Gymnast’.

  7. Another inspirational person is Ed Whitlock. Unfortunately, Ed died in March 2017, but he remains a legend and an inspiration in his field of long-distance running.

    Ed initially enjoyed running as a teenager and took up the sport again in his forties, going on to break many records. Among his many achievements, he was the first person aged over 70 to run a marathon in less than three hours, clocking in a record-breaking 2:54:48. In October 2016, at the age of 85, Ed became the oldest person to run a marathon in less than four hours, recording a time of 3:56:33 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

    The following video shows Ed Whitlock’s great achievement in Toronto.

    Show the video, ‘85-Year-Old Ed Whitlock Runs Sub-4:00 Marathon, Shatters WR’.

  8. Another inspirational person is swimmer, David Radcliff, who represented the USA at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, where he achieved a time of 19:09.6 in the 1,500-metre freestyle. Nearly 40 years later, in 1995, he returned to competitive swimming. When he was 80 years old, he recorded a time of 22:16.90 for the 1,500-metre freestyle, which was only three minutes slower than his time in the 1956 Olympics.

    The following video shows David in action.

    Show the video, ‘Dave Radcliff 200 Free National Record’.

    Ask the children if they think that they could perform to the standard of the people listed: the World Masters Athletics competitors, Johanna Quaas, Ed Whitlock and David Radcliff.

Time for reflection

Let’s think about the people that we have just spoken about and seen: the World Masters Athletics competitors, Johanna Quaas, Ed Whitlock and David Radcliff.

Let’s reflect on the lessons that we can learn from them.

Seeing the achievements of these people can motivate all of us, whatever age we are, to press on with our dreams and not to let anything hold us back. They are inspirational people who break down assumptions about older generations. They also demonstrate the importance of keeping fit and healthy.

They are truly inspirational.

Dear God,
Thank you for role models such as Johanna Quaas, Ed Whitlock and David Radcliff.
Thank you for the lessons that they teach us about motivation, commitment and never giving up.
Help us to see the importance of keeping fit and healthy.
Help us to dream big dreams and to work hard to fulfil them.

Publication date: July 2017   (Vol.19 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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