Never too late to learn to swim – even at 95!

You are never too old for a swimming lesson.

Local man Ross Taylor, who was 95 recently and lives in Penrith, has been a recent regular at Eva Bory’s Swim School, walking laps up and down the lanes, in an attempt to recuperate from various operations and medical procedures, and on advice from his daughter regarding the therapeutic benefits of water exercise. Not one to be inactive – having only retired from teaching drama at 80 years of age – Mr Taylor decided late in 2016 that walking laps was “getting boring”, and it was time to learn to swim again. Now Ross has achieved what he set out to do – achieved his goal of 5 strokes of breaststroke – and is now progressing to learn to swim on his back.

His swim instructor, Terry Spinks says “I admire Ross’s determination to learn to swim, even at 95 he is ticking things off his to do list. I congratulate him on his willpower and look forward to seeing him every week for his swimming lesson”.

Born in 1921 in the UK, Mr Taylor has had a very full and interesting life, including being married for 67 years, having lost the wife he spoke so fondly of only 4 years ago, and I wished I had hours to pass hearing his stories. Speaking with a strong BBC accent, Mr Taylor explained that he learned the accent from the radio – or the wireless as it was called in those days – in the early 1930’s while spending months on end in bed suffering with asthma. From his position as the British labour party’s propaganda secretary in 1946, later running successful drama schools in Queensland and in the Northern Territory working with indigenous students, to learning piano in recent years with his first public performance being held at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre next month, Ross is a man of many talents.

I was interested to know why learning to swim again was now a focus? Ross explained that he did swim in his younger years, but had since lost the confidence to put his face in the water, and the ability to actually swim with strokes. His goal is modest and achievable – to confidently connect up to 5 repetitions of breaststroke without stopping, walk a few steps, and repeat swimming breaststroke to achieve a whole lap. And to do so in a straight line, because as Ross says “I have always swum a bit crooked!”

Ross would encourage others to also stay active, sharing with me a story of his visit to a retirement village a few years ago ‘purely for the Devonshire tea – they put on a marvelous Devonshire tea’. Other guests chose to retire at the village, telling Mr Taylor “I’m ready to slow down and have a rest now”. Ross tells me “They were 55 and 60 years old!”

The benefits, both physical and mental, of swimming for all age groups are well documented – it is a healthy, low impact form of exercise that can be continued for a lifetime! Swimming builds cardiovascular capacity, muscle strength and endurance, and helps to maintain a heathy weight, heart and lungs. Swimming provides an all-over body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used, but is also a peaceful and relaxing way to keep moving. Swimming has been shown to alleviate stress, improve coordination, balance and posture, improve flexibility and provide a pleasant way to cool down on a hot day. No matter your age, swimming is fun and very social, and a great way to connect with other people.

However, safety is of paramount importance, so learning to swim – or regaining lost water confidence – is a must before entering the water.

We applaud Mr Taylor’s efforts to stay safer in the water by improving his swimming skills and confidence. It’s never too late to learn to swim!

Adult private lessons are available at Eva Bory’s Swim School, Emu Plains.