Firsthand—experiences with aging

By Claudia Parliament

Returning to synchronized swimming after a 32-year hiatus has significantly altered my life. When my high school coach retired in 1993, several of us organized a show in her honor. We enjoyed it so much we started a masters synchro team, the Minnesota Northern Pikes, and since 1995 we have competed at the annual U.S. Masters Championships. My middle sister and I are the oldest members on the team, at ages 71 and 75. In our most recent national competition, our six-member team placed second in our age group category. 

My youngest sister, who competed nationally and internationally in her youth, returned from California in 1998 and became the head coach of a local club. She asked us to help with coaching. Currently, the club has more than 80 swimmers, ages 8 to19.

What keeps me coaching 5 days a week, 10 months a year? Primarily, it is the engagement with young women. Often, they start at a tender age with limited body awareness and control and leave as self-confident, poised women with life skills of teamwork, goal-setting and focus. I have a 10-year window to watch them progress, longer than a classroom teacher or high school coach.

What keeps me swimming twice a week with our masters team? The friendship of teammates, the benefit of staying fit with the strength and flexibility needed to compete, and the satisfaction of feeling better about myself, both mentally and emotionally. In addition, synchro is s a sport with few sports-related injuries—no broken bones, torn ligaments, falls or crashes—a concern as we age. 

Conclusion: stay active, engage in a project, and do something you enjoy, perhaps bringing forward skills or interests from your youth.   

If you would like to share a firsthand experience related to health and aging, please contact Ron Anderson, UMRA Cares Committee, at [email protected].