Marcquinne Yancey has never let age stop her from trying new things. At 56, she decided it was time to wade into unknown waters. She went from being unable to swim to competing in Tennessee Senior Olympic swim meets. 

Growing Up in the Arts

Music and movement have been woven into Marcquinne’s life. In her hometown of Chicago, music, dance, and performance were part of her everyday. Marcquinne’s mother exposed her to African, modern, and tap dance, and she thrived in the performing arts.

Her family moved to Memphis when she was 14, and her love of the arts flourished here in the city. Marcquinne continued performing into college and when she attended law school at The University of Memphis. She performed liturgical dance and directed the choir at Spirit of Life Healing Wings International Church, where she is now Minister of Music. 

Marcquinne’s 28-year career as a manager for the Shelby County Division of Corrections may not be related to music and movement, but her husband, Johnny, is a jazz musician and instructor. Together, they have three children and five grandchildren. 

Jumping in the Deep End

Over time, Marcquinne stopped dancing due to joint pain. Long walks became her main form of exercise, but that too took a toll on her joints. After learning that swimming is a great low-impact form of exercise, she decided to hit the pool even without knowing how to swim.

“Three years ago, I took a two-week-long swimming course and fell in love with the water. Not only is swimming a great full-body workout, but the water calms my mind and clears my brain. It’s my time to unplug,” she says. 

Marcquinne progressed quickly in the pool, letting her participate in the Tennessee Senior Olympics Memphis district swim meets. But much like everything else, that came to a stop during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rest as Fuel

When city pools closed, Marcquinne deeply missed her time in the water, so she joined the Kroc Center, whose pool had safety measures in place. In addition to swimming, Marcquinne immersed herself in a variety of group fitness classes, taking everything from water aerobics to Zumba, barre, and aerial yoga. “Exercising was a way for me to get my pandemic frustrations out,” Marcquinne explains. 

Increasing her volume of exercise led her to develop hip bursitis. In April this year, Marcquinne was forced to take a break from swimming and exercise altogether. With age also comes wisdom. She says, “My injury taught me an important lesson: you need to rest. To stay injury free, you need to slow down and give your body time to recuperate.” 

Aging Gracefully 

No matter your genetics, Marcquinne believes that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is necessary to extend your quality of life. “Your life depends on it. It doesn’t matter what your age, background or body type, or size is. We can all make incremental changes to live healthier,” she urges. 

Marcquinne loves to eat healthy and incorporates a lot of fresh ingredients from local farmers markets. Making soul food with a healthy twist is one of her passions. “When I share traditional dishes with a healthy twist, friends and family are pleasantly surprised that comforting classics can be made healthier without sacrificing flavor.” One of her favorite dishes to share is southern greens made with olive oil, sea salt, and garlic. 

This summer, Marcquinne has been easing back into exercise. She’s in the pool again, taking classes, and training for a swim competition at the end of this month. However, she’s giving herself ample time for rest and recovery. With her 60th birthday in October, she sees every day as a gift and says, “I’m just happy to be here.”

By Morgan Stritzinger

Photo by Tindall Stephens