Mo Rocca profiles late-in-life triumphs in new book 'Roctogenarians'

"CBS Sunday Morning" correspondent Mo Rocca discusses with ABC News the late-in-life success stories he features in "Roctogenarians: Late in Life Debuts, Comebacks, and Triumphs."

Rocca argues that people's biggest triumphs often come later in life. Rocca's book is a celebration of role models who, despite societal expectations, found their stride later in life. It's a testament to their resilience and a call to appreciate and respect such late-in-life triumphs, he says.

Rocca mentioned that many people accomplish great things late in life because they are unfettered and not worried about what others think. They are less likely to worry, and older people often have better stories.

ABC News sat down with Rocca to discuss more about his new book.

VIDEO: Mo Rocca profiles late-in-life triumphs in new book 'Roctogenarians' (
VIDEO: Mo Rocca profiles late-in-life triumphs in new book 'Roctogenarians' (

ABC NEWS: Can your biggest triumphs come later in life? Well, beloved "CBS Sunday Morning" correspondent and "Daily Show" alum Mo Rocca argues yes, they absolutely can. And he has a lot of examples in his new book, "Roctogenarians: Late in Life Debuts, Comebacks, and Triumphs."

Mo Rocca and coauthor Jonathan Greenberg tell the stories of some people that you know, many you don't, who leave some of their biggest marks on the world during their golden years. Mo, thanks so much for being here. Great to talk to you.

MO ROCCA: Trevor, it's great to be here.

ABC NEWS: Now, I know that you already have "Mobituaries." "Roctogenarians." Was that subject picked just because of the pun?

ROCCA: Yeah. I want to use my name as best I can. I'm running out of names at this point. But, yeah, I thought it was good. We had talked about Moroccagenarians, but it was too many syllables.

ABC NEWS: Right. I think that you nailed it with just Roctogenarians. You tell a great story from an interview that you had done, I think nine years, a decade ago, with Chance the Rapper where you ask him, "I'm 46. Am I too old to be a rapper?" And he says, kind of jokingly but not, "some people would say, you're too young."

ROCCA: Yeah, it kind of was because I, my question was meant to be kind of an easy laugh, and it sort of was it was kind of a hacky joke. And when he responded that way, he, he actually said, it might be too soon for you to become a rapper it got a laugh, too, but he was serious kind of. And I was sort of thunderstruck because I thought, you know, I had internalized the idea that at 46, I was over the hill, that it was too late for me to do something new.

But I think that this insidious notion that you're over the hill in your, your 60s or maybe your 50s or 40s is, is, has penetrated the culture so much that I and my coauthor wanted to offer a counterpoint.

ABC NEWS: There you go. You've interviewed so many people over the years. Is there something about people in their later years that you find particularly interesting to speak to them?

ROCCA: Yes. People, as they get older, care less about what other people think of them. And I think that's very liberating. And I think there's a good reason that so many people late in life act, accomplish something because they're unfettered, or they're not worried about what other people are going to think. They're less likely to worry. So that's one thing. And just older people have better stories.

ABC NEWS: Did you have any preconceived notions about this kind of person that you found was maybe incorrect after you interviewed all these people?

ROCCA: I think the biggest preconception is the fearlessness of a lot of people and that the older they get, the less they fret. And I, I would have thought the less time you have on the other side, the more you're sort of going to feel a sense of urgency. And actually, these people all were very present minded.

ABC NEWS: At the beginning of the interview, we mentioned "Mobituaries," which is kind of looking at people, things after they've already passed, speaking to these people who are in their later years but haven't passed. Does that change how you think about those stories after people are gone?

ROCCA: Well, yeah, I moved from the dead to the pre-dead. I like to call them. It's it's made me appreciate even more the people who do things late in life to improve a world in which they're not going to really be able to enjoy.

And I think there's something very powerful. I think there's very obviously this is in the current discussion, but I think there is something very powerful about public servants who are doing something for a better world, a world at best, that they'll enjoy for a couple, a few years. There's something very powerful about that.

ABC NEWS:  I recall the proverb, A society truly grows great when men plant trees whose shade they will never sit in.

ROCCA: I love that. And would you please stitch that on a pillow for me?

ABC NEWS: I'll get right on that.

ROCCA: I sincerely, that's a that's very beautiful and I don't know that proverb and it applies.

ABC NEWS: Yes. I'm not sure where the proverb comes from, but it's a proverb I believe. Mo while we have you, typically would not ask this of you. I hope it doesn't become relevant for many decades, but a question that we would generally ask someone in their later years. I'm going to pose to you now: How do you wish to be remembered?

ROCCA: I'd like the first line of my obituary to read Mo Rocca comma, who made people interested in things they didn't expect to be interested in, comma, died today, period. He was 146. It's, it's all about that clause, right? Right in the middle of that first sentence. That's where the meat is. That's where the action.

ABC NEWS: A man who has always loved an independent clause. Mo Rocca, thanks so much for being here. It's a pleasure to speak to you. The book is called "Roctogenarians: Late in Life Debuts, Comebacks, and Triumphs." It is on sale right now.

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