Grey is the New Black

New films feature age in a new light.

Milos Kostic climbs onto the bicycle with ease, having finished over two miles of swimming in an IronMan triathlon in Whistler. His muscles are taut and his face dripping with water and sweat, but he’s not fazed by the miles left to go.

In fact, he tells a camera crew – who are there to film the whole process – that he looks forward to each segment of the race since it seems to get a little easier with each change of pace. By the time he’s ready to run in the last leg of the race, his own legs are stiff. But he soon picks up speed, exhilarated by the sight of the finish line.

At the age of 72, Kostic is an exceptional athlete compared to anyone of any age. And he’s one of five seniors featured in the film, Grey Glory, that explores those over 65 in extraordinary physical condition.

According to Brandy Yanchyk, the writer, producer and director of the movie, even the film crew had a difficult time keeping up with Kostic. “We were exhausted; we were wiped. And we were just following with a bloody camera. We weren’t even competing,” says Yanchyk.

Yanchyk, an Edmontonian who also works as a casual reporter for CBC Edmonton, had initially been commissioned to film a four-minute piece on another senior, Olga Kotelko, for the BBC. But Yanchyk realized there was opportunity for something bigger.

In her late 70s, Kotelko decided she wanted to be a track and field athlete. And, until she died at the age of 95, she was winning competitions and inspiring other seniors, including 76-year-old Christa Bortignon, to pursue their own athletic careers. Bortignon is also featured in the film.

“[Olga] made no apologies about who she was – although she was an old lady who looked adorable, she was tough as nails when it came to competition,” says Yanchyk. “That had a huge influence on me as a woman; I was so impressed.”

Kotelko had left an abusive relationship when she was eight months pregnant during a time when single motherhood was taboo. As a senior, she considered track and field her second career and was so devoted to being healthy, she devised her own middle-of-the-night exercise routine.

On the heels of Grey Glory, Yanchyk also completed Grey Ambition, another film about seniors, but this time it’s a documentary exploring those with exceptional mental health and business acumen who excel during retirement. “Age doesn’t stop them. They don’t sit on the couch and have aches and pains. They don’t worry about getting older,” says Yanchyk. Both films air on OMNI TV and CBC’s documentary channel.

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