Related topics

Senior Swimmers: Like Esther Williams, and Just as Old, Too

August 26, 1996

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Back pain, arthritis, even hip replacement surgery can’t keep the Aquadettes _ a team of geriatric synchronized swimmers _ out of the pool.

The 22 Aquadettes, all of the whom live at the Leisure World retirement community, don’t hold their breaths for minutes or execute acrobatic moves like Olympians, but their outfits are just as flamboyant and they show just as much leg.

``Some people are surprised at that,″ said Aquadette Barbara Hack, 64. ``My husband says it’s the world’s oldest girlie show.″

Over the weekend, more than 200 people attended the final day of the Aquadettes’ annual four-day show at Leisure World. It was the 31st Aqua Follies for the Aquadettes, and the women who are part of it don’t plan to quit for any reason, least of all age.

``We do more than just swim together,″ said Edith Nathan, 65. ``We socialize. We always have outings together. ... I don’t feel any older than I did in college, just a little more self-assured.″

The women produce their shows, choreograph the routines, select the music and make the costumes.

Some have extensive backgrounds in swimming, while others learned after joining the group. Many of them perform despite aching joints and sore muscles.

``There was enough arthritis in the pool to support a whole clinic,″ said emcee Bob Ring, whose wife is an Aquadette.

They playfully call one team member ``The Bionic Woman″ because she has had knee-, hip- and shoulder-replacement operations.

A lighting rig suspended over an open-air pool illuminated the swimmers Sunday as they moved in undulating circular patterns, their white hair tucked into colorful caps. Their moves included sculling, stroking and walk-overs, in which the swimmers bend over backward and move their legs in the air in a walking motion.

Synchronized swimming was inspired by Esther Williams movies of the 1940s such as ``Neptune’s Daughter″ and ``Bathing Beauty.″ The movies featured complex underwater choreography and gave filmmakers an excuse to show women in swimsuits.

Evie Henry was 32 when ``Bathing Beauty″ was released, and at 84, she still wows the crowds when she stands at poolside with her arms raised, motionless for a few moments as the music plays, and then executes an arching dive into the water.

``If the choreography to the music is really wonderful,″ Henry said, ``swimming to music is heavenly.″

The Aquadettes said they were impressed with the elaborate routines and the athletic ability of the synchronized swimmers at the Olympics. The Aquadettes’ routines are more ``ballet-style,″ Nathan said, but ``I think there’s a place for both.″

As for the young Olympians, she said, ``I think they’d be glad to know there’s a future for them, even when they get older.″

Update hourly