The social benefits of these competitions, which typically include entrants ages 18 and up, are significant for Rogers. Participants regard older swimmers with deep respect, and it’s not uncommon to hear the loudest displays of support for these veterans. The oldest competitor Rogers has met was Anne Dunivin, who swam past age 100 and recently passed away at 105.
“It’s just a way to grow old gracefully,” Rogers said. “If you’re 85, and you do a (500-yard freestyle), you deserve applause.”
‘A fountain of youth’
Elaine Krugman’s, experience in the pool is similar to Rogers’ in many ways, including a decades-long break. Krugman, 60, swam in high school and then stepped away for 31 years. She missed swimming but had no pool access during that time.
Now she lives in Griffin and competes with the Atlanta Water Jocks, a team governed, as are more than a dozen others throughout the state, by the Georgia Local Masters Swim Committee. Like Rogers — the two are friends — Krugman enjoys swimming’s mind-clearing perks.
“I come six days a week, and the one day I don’t swim to let my body rest, I’m thinking about wanting to get back to the pool the next day to swim,” she said.
“On that day I’m not swimming, I feel kind of foggy in my head. I don’t think as clearly. I don’t want to do anything important on that day that would require me to be mindful because I just can’t lock in, whereas after I’ve been swimming, I’m clear-headed, and I can think so much better.”
Krugman cited the fact that swimming is a non-weight-bearing activity as a benefit for older participants. It’s easy on joints, she said. Those who partake end up utilizing all muscle groups, and it works for people of varying abilities.
“Another great benefit of swimming is that you don’t have to use all four limbs in order to get a good workout,” Krugman added. “If you have a disability or injury, there are many ways to adjust each of the four swimming strokes to isolate a limb from being used. And there is a lot of swimming gear available to help you do that. For example, if you are unable to kick, a foam pull buoy placed between your thighs will allow you to swim with your arms so you can rest your legs.”
She also sees the activity as a way to recapture vigor.
“To me, it seems like it’s a fountain of youth. The older swimmers are so much younger than their age on paper,” she said. “When I wake up in the morning, I feel my age, but when I swim, I feel like half my age when I’m finished.”
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