Illustrating the Possibilities of Older Age
“With the resources and wisdom that come from advancing years, there are many more opportunities to live a joyous and fulfilled life. An excellent life might look different at sixty than forty or twenty, but there is always something wonderful to experience and create at any age.”
Tania Crane Hanna was considerably older than the women who placed second and third behind her in the 2008 Music of the Soul Marathon in Lethbridge, Alberta. The same was true in the previous year when she won the Canmore Half Marathon and placed first in the Master’s, at the Calgary Stampede Marathon. She is usually first place in her age group in any race she competes in.
These achievements are impressive demonstrations of her mental toughness and dedication to a rigourous training routine. She runs 120 kilometres per week. This includes a brutal set of up to thirty one-kilometre intervals run at near sprint speed with only twenty second rests in between. She runs when it is hot. She runs when it is cold. If it is raining, dark or snowing, she is out there running. She does not let anything get in the way of her running.
What is remarkable about these feats of athletic excellence is not so much the commitment to winning but the commitment to participating. The results come second to her shear enjoyment of the physical movement of running and the feeling of satisfaction she gets from pushing herself past her previous performance limits.
Such breakthroughs are unusual for a runner her age. At forty-four, she is theoretically past her prime as a runner. Elite female distance runners peak at the age of thirty-seven. She set her personal best in her early twenties and then has reset it three times by wide margins in the last three years — all in her forties. She is successfully defying the age curve.
Tania has done this, amazingly enough, while overcoming the antagonistic effects of a severe back injury. At the age of thirty-four she was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease which causes debilitating back spasms and chronic pain. She then hired a coach and now does regular active release with her chiropractor, massage therapy and treatments with a naturopathic doctor. Despite the injury — or perhaps in her case, in spite of the injury — her performance has improved not declined.
This not all that surprising considering her profession. Tania is an occupational therapist working in the Seniors’ program at the Rocky View Hospital in Calgary. She specializes in rehabilitating the elders of our society who have suffered the deleterious effects of strokes, broken hips, dementia and diabetes. These are potentially severe conditions that substantially undermine the quality of life for many of our older citizens. But Tania sees no reason why her people cannot live well despite the infirmities. Excellence is available at any age. She sees to it and leads by her own example.
She has had this kind of strength even from a young age. Tania was introduced to the sport of figure skating at the age of four, by her mother Jane, a woman who herself is aging gracefully. Tania learned then to put in the work to achieve her goals, taking her skating to a high competitive standard. On our first skating date, early in our courtship, I just had to sit on the bench in bewildered amazement watching her move. While I fumbled around on an my old pair of hockey skates, she floated around the ice, as if on wings. This is how she does everything in her life: with beauty and with discipline.
As we get older, there are frequent opportunities to give up on the dreams we had as younger people. Dysfunctional knees, bifocals and waning hearing are just some of the triggers that lead to a reluctant acceptance of the dying process. It does not have to be this way. With the resources and wisdom that come from advancing years, there are many more opportunities to live a joyous and fulfilled life. An excellent life might look different at sixty than forty or twenty, but there is always something wonderful to experience and create at any age. And that is higher purpose, higher profit.