Agency on Aging

Never Too Old to Win

On Thursday April 7th Catherine Solomon, Chairperson of the Sociology department at Quinnipiac University hosted a screening of the documentary “Age of Champions”. The movie follows the stories of a rambunctious basketball team from Louisiana, a pair of swimmer brothers from D.C, a centenarian tennis champion from Cape Cod and two rival track and field players from Texas each of whom are looking to get the gold at the bi-annual Senior Olympics. The movie shares each player’s story and the great amount of preparation each of them put into their craft in order to win. Showing that physical activity and mental toughness shouldn’t stop at any age.

The movie begins with The Tigerettes, a women’s basketball team hailing from Louisiana. The Tigerettes hold a record of 165-3 with five Senior Olympic gold medals and look to win their 6th. On the court the Tigerettes impose their physical playing style on their opponents and score nearly at will. Leaving the competition bruised and sometimes bloodied these ladies defy the stereotypes that paint women of a certain age as grannies baking pies and knitting blankets. Off the court they spend time with each other getting their hair and nails done, enjoying the company of one another at tea parties talking proudly about each other’s families and dishing out town gossip. Each of these ladies may be older but show that they have the grit to win.

In Washington D.C we join Bradford and John Tatum two talented swimmers, who at 90 and 88 years of age, have won so many gold medals combined that they stopped counting. During the movie they muse about the times when they were young men and had to swim in the black’s only swimming pool. Despite being subject to discriminatory practices these brothers had the perseverance and passion to continue doing what they loved. Since they started competing in the senior Olympics both Bradford and John train and practice together, pushing each other to make sure that they would win the in the next games. Even when Bradford discovered he had colorectal cancer he continued to swiming to keep in good health and spirits. Bradford eventually won his battle against the disease and instead of slowing down and taking things easy, he continued competing and continued to get the gold.

As the movie progresses it shows more stories about the upbeat attitude, determination and mental toughness of these athletes. The inspirational stories didn’t stop at the end of the documentary. Once the movie ended there was panel discussion from five current Senior Olympics competitors the oldest being 94 years. Each of them discussed their history, how they got their start in sports and what their future might hold. All of them reminded the audience how important staying physically active is not only for the body, but the benefits it has for the brain. Not a single one of the panelist nor the athletes featured in the movie portrayed the trope of weak and frail seniors that we constantly see on television or in the media. Instead each one of them showed a mental acuity, physical presence and competitive streak that everyone should envy. 

This article was written as part of  about AOASCC's campaign to Stop Ageism Now. Find out more.