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Betty White redefined what it means to age gracefully in Hollywood

Here are some of White's most notable roles in her 80s and 90s.
Betty White
Gary Null / NBC
/ Source: TODAY

Though many actors will hang up their hats and enjoy retirement after the age of 80, television icon Betty White was no such actor.

The indelible White continued acting through 2018 — when she was 96! — and even did voiceover work afterward. Memorably, she portrayed Bitey White (get it?) in a small, no-name film you may have heard of: "Toy Story 4."

She often made light of her age but after decades in the business, it is not hyperbolic to say she was widely respected and adored. In her 2011 memoir, "If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)," she explained that for her, aging gracefully meant being happy to be here.

"Enjoy it," she wrote. "So you may not be as fast on your feet, and the image in your mirror may be a little disappointing, but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game."

White died on Dec. 31, 2021, at the age of 99. The TV legend would have celebrated her 100th birthday on Jan. 17.

Below are some of our favorite roles the late "Golden Girls" star portrayed after she turned 80.

1) 'The Proposal'

This memorable 2009 film starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds featured White as an eccentric grandmother in Alaska.

Betty White with Ryan Reynolds and Mary Steenburgen in 2009's "The Proposal" Everett Collection

Aside from hilarious one-liners and taking Bullock's uptight character to a strip club, she is a critical part of the movie's most ridiculous and iconic scene. Bullock's character, Margaret Tate, happens upon White's Grandma Annie in the woods as she's performing a chanting ceremony in honor of Mother Earth.

White's character asks Bullock to join her and caught off guard, Bullock starts singing  Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’s song "Get Low," which includes lyrics that are...not fit to print.

Even while promoting the film, White and Reynolds started a hilarious feud. In one clip released ahead of the movie, White mistakes Reynolds for an assistant and flips him the bird.

"When Betty White says she wants a cup of coffee, you get her a f---ing cup of coffee!" she yells at Reynolds in the scene.

2) 'Saturday Night Live'

While "Saturday Night Live" is not technically just one role, it was an awesome and memorable appearance by the TV veteran.

Executive producer Lorne Michaels famously reached out to White after a Facebook petition asked for her to host the longtime NBC variety show in 2010.

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Betty White, Ana Gasteyer and Will Forte in a sketch that aired on May 8, 2010.Dana Edelson / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The opening sketch showed White as a mother to a singing group of women, including Kristin Wiig's Dooneese, who has tiny baby doll hands.

In another scene, she played a grandmother of a prisoner — portrayed by Kenan Thompson — who brings her in to scare bullies straight. In another scene, she traumatizes census taker Tina Fey by giving her weird answers.

She would later appear on the "Weekend Update" segment as 90-year-old AARP contributor Dottie O’Donegan.

"I went through menopause while we were still in Vietnam!" she chastises Molly Shannon's character, Sally O’Malley. "I have a chair in my shower, I win."

For her "SNL" hosting gig on May 8, 2010, a then-88-year-old White would go on to win an Emmy for best guest actress in a comedy series. She still holds the record as the oldest person to ever host the show.

After White’s death, former cast member Seth Meyers wrote that she was the “only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end.”

3) Snickers ad

White's hilarious appearance in a 2010 Super Bowl advertisement for Snickers introduced her to a younger fan base and is widely credited for leading to the eventual petition to get her on "SNL" later that year.

In the memorable ad, White plays football with a bunch of young men when she gets tackled.

“Mike, you’re playing like Betty White out there,” a teammate complains in the clip. A mud-covered White claps back from the ground: "That’s not what your girlfriend said!"

It was all part of a Snickers campaign with the slogan, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry."

4) 'Hot in Cleveland'

From 2010 to 2015, White played elderly caretaker Elka in the TV series "Hot in Cleveland."

The pilot episode tells the story of three women from Los Angeles on their way to Paris when their plane is forced to land in Cleveland, Ohio. The three decide to stay and rent a house that "comes with" White's character.

She lives in the guest house behind the home of three lead characters, Jane Leeves, who plays Joy; Valerie Bertinelli, who plays Melanie; and Wendie Malick, who plays Victoria.


Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Betty White and Jane Leeves pose onstage during "Hot in Cleveland" LIVE! at the CBS Studio Center on March 26, 2014 in Studio City, California.Jesse Grant / Getty Images for TV Land

White's Elka cooks, offers advice and funny one-liners. In the pilot episode, Leeves' Joy asks Elka why she always wears a sweatsuit.

"Well, it’s simple: in your 20s you dress for men, in your 40s you dress for success, in your 80s you dress for a bathroom," she quips.

5) 'Young & Hungry'

White played Ms. Wilson, the downstairs neighbor to lead character Gabi Diamond, portrayed by Emily Osment.

In her first appearance, she wears a wedding dress in honor of Valentine's Day.

In a later episode, Wilson's character drives Diamond and Sofia Rodriguez (played by Aimee Carrero) to Las Vegas to meet a past lover at midnight a la "Sleepless in Seattle."

"I bet they took her license away years ago!" Rodriguez says angrily.

"Wrong!" Wilson replies. "I never had a license."

She goes on to lament that her parole officer is going to be "pissed."

Betty White and Carl Reiner in an episode of "Young & Hungry" that aired in May 2017. Eric McCandless / Freeform/Disney

(Spoiler alert!) At the end of her final appearance on the show, White's Ms. Wilson is reunited with her former love, Bernie Schwartz, played by Carl Reiner.

Her character tells the younger cast members they should make new, happy memories together instead of dwelling on the past — an adage she believed in real life as well.

“Enjoy life,” White told Parade magazine in 2018. “Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, ‘Hey, that was great!’ It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.”

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