Olympic champion and former senator, Nancy Greene Raine, gives insight on how her age has never slowed her down.
What does healthy aging mean to you?
To me personally, healthy aging means being rewarded for having developed healthy habits including diet, exercise, sleep, and enjoying a good social life.
Having lived in mountain towns most of my life, it was easy for me to continue skiing into my later years and then to add activities such as hiking, cycling, and tennis to my lifestyle.
I’ve always been inspired by seeing people much older than me enjoying these activities, including seniors skiing well into their eighties and even some in their nineties. My husband and I have watched seniors playing excellent tennis, and at Sun Peaks one year we had a 90-year-old man join us for the annual Reach the Peak hike to the top of Tod Mountain.
I’ve been lucky in that my husband also appreciates an active lifestyle, so we’ve enjoyed doing our sports together. I’m pleased that our two sons and their families have continued this tradition. It’s so much easier to have an active lifestyle when you share it with others, and I believe healthy aging is the result.
What challenges (both mentally and physically) have you faced as you age?
I’ve always been an optimistic person and have enjoyed being around positive people, and I think both are important for mental well-being.
When I was 65, I was asked to serve in the Senate of Canada, so I faced the huge challenge of learning all about politics and how Parliament works, analyzing the legislation, and engaging in the committee studies. It was stressful but exhilarating as I became aware that my life’s experience allowed me to make a meaningful contribution. I joked with people saying that going to the Senate was as good for your brain as playing bridge.
I haven’t had many physical challenges until a few years ago when I had two kinds of cancer. Fortunately, both were treatable with excellent care from the BC Cancer Agency. I think that being healthy otherwise and having a positive attitude also made a big difference. Like most Canadians, I sometimes need motivating to keep up my fitness, and so I repeat the old saying: “You don’t slow down because you get old, you get old because you slow down.”
What excites you most about this chapter of your life?
As my husband and I finish our seventies and head into our eighties, I’m excited to be living in the wonderful community of Sun Peaks, where skiing is right outside our door and we’re in daily contact with enthusiastic kids, engaged young people, and active seniors. Like many people our age, we’re downsizing and getting rid of stuff which has become a burden. We love that our grandchildren live nearby so we can see them on a regular basis, and I’m excited by the opportunities that lie ahead for them.
What’s your advice for those who may look at aging as something to fear?
I think most people’s biggest fear is to lose their health — so the earlier you can work on developing a healthy lifestyle, the better. My advice is not to think of it as something you have to work on, but rather to find activities you enjoy and can do with your friends. There are lots of fun ways to get exercise, and being careful with what you eat, drinking alcohol in moderation, and getting enough sleep are all doable. Embrace the changes and have fun!