Learning to Swim at Age 83

learning to swimYou take a deep breath, inhaling air. Then, you lower your goggled head into the water, slowly letting the inhaled air out. As you do this, one arm cuts through the water, then the next, and the third part of this automatic process is where you turn your face and inhale air again, then go back underwater to blow it out before the next breath. Meantime, your legs are straight, flutter-kicking like propellers on a boat. Repeat this inhale, exhale, and head and body movements as you move forward in the pool’s lap lane.


This is swimming! I honestly had no idea how it works, and now I do. I’ve only had ONE lesson, but I already know that with this patient and talented coach’s help, I can master this sequence— and finally learn to swim.

Those who read my blogs know that the first entry on my short Bucket List was ridiculous. I had never been to a Dairy Queen and wanted to try a Blizzard. On my 80th birthday, my daughter Heather took me to one in Union, New Jersey—no DQ outlets in Manhattan—and the sweet treat did not disappoint.

And neither did the second item on my list: a first-ever trip to Israel. This past August, I spent two fantastic weeks touring all parts of that beautiful country, for which my heart is breaking—but that is another story for another day.

The third item on my list was to learn to swim. Serendipitously, a new arrival to my building complex—which houses a large, delicious pool, complete with a lifeguard seven days a week—advertised in our building link. His name is Alex. He recently moved into one of our four towers and invited anyone interested in swim lessons in our pool to contact him. Yes, yes, yes, Alex. Me, me, me! His fee was fair, and he was flexible on days and times. I signed up for six lessons—a bit apprehensive since I flunked out at a scuba diving class I tried at a hotel in the Bahamas, as I do not love being underwater.

But this—this I can do. Alex says he will teach me the standard swim position, plus backstroke, floating, and treading water. I was a little taken aback when he told me that treading water is the most difficult, as it is so tiring that you never know when you might find yourself overboard and need to tread water in the ocean. Overboard? Adrift in the ocean? Maybe I need to start paying attention when the flight attendants tell us what to do if we land on water. Where is Captain Sully when you need him!learning to swim

If you already know how to swim and can do laps, lucky you! I wish I had developed this skill years ago to have a swimmer’s body today. It’s too late for that, but I am happy with finally learning to swim. I attend Aquacise classes three times a week at the local JCC—Jewish Community Center—and envy those hearty souls in the lap lanes. Someday, that still could be me. Or I can also keep practicing here in the building’s pool.

I am so proud of myself for doing this. I still have five lessons, but becoming a capable swimmer will incentivize me to do the following things on my Bucket List. If you’re curious about what those are—they’re pretty “out there” for someone my age—but this is CelebrEighty, after all—tell me yours, and I’ll let you know mine.

One more thing before we end—if you take one life lesson away from this blog, I hope it will be that it is NEVER TOO LATE to have a dream and put it into action. A wise person once said, “If you can conceive and believe it, you can achieve it.” What are YOU waiting for if I can do these things at 83? Enlarge your territory. Expand your ecosystems. Live large at every age, my dear friend.

Love to you all!