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A backstroke of genius: Local retirees start a synchronized swimming team

Synchronized swimming.jpg
Posted at 7:28 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 21:52:05-04

As you reach the end of the long and beautifully appointed main corridor at Mirador Retirement Community, you begin to realize that this isn't your grandma's nursing home. OK, fine. Maybe it actually is. But — stay with me.

Hang a left at the end of the silent hall, and the boisterous sound of Jimmy Buffett's "Volcano" betrays the Mirador's conservative aesthetic.

Giggles and laughter can be heard from the 70-, 80- and 90-year-olds who have just finished performing a synchronized swim routine.

You read that right: synchronized swimming.

"We’re not in a retirement home waiting to die," said former swim instructor and resident Trudy Kenyon. "We are living. We are really living."

Mirador swimmers

Kaeli Hernandez has a masters degree in kinesiology. She teaches classes such as yoga, pilates, "posture," which helps residents strengthen their upper bodies, and, of course, water aerobics.

When Kenyon approached her with the idea to put together a synchronized swim team, Hernandez said she was immediately on board.

"I was just like, 'You go with it, and we’ll do it,'" she said.

Resident Jenny Mohundro said synchronized swimming just seemed like a logical next step, based on what they were already doing in the pool

"As we’re doing our aerobics class and we’re doing an exercise, we go ‘Oh, that would be a good choreography move!’" she said.

So on Monday, the team will put on a Fourth of July-themed show for the rest of the complex's residents. To prepare, Kenyon studied at what she calls the "University of YouTube" for inspiration.

Kenyon adapts what she sees, integrating aids such as pool noodles into their routines to make them accessible for every skill level.

"None of us were gonna do the fancy diving under the water and things like that," Kenyon said. "We’re not replacing Esther Williams."

Kenyon calls water "the great equalizer," because it doesn't matter whether a resident uses a walker on land — in the water, she said, that person is just as capable as any "able body."

"We have one of our members who had a knee replacement, and as soon as she could get in here, she was in, and in the middle of it all," Kenyon said. "I kept saying 'Are you sure this isn’t hurting?’ (She said) ‘No, No, No. Let’s do it. Let’s do it.’ "

Mirador swimmers 2

Kenyon moved into the Mirador after her husband died three years ago.

"I was sitting in my old house – and, of course COVID was going on, so that made it worse – but it’s like ‘I’m sitting here by myself, and it’s lonely,'" she said.

She said isolation is a common problem with the old and elderly.

"I solved that loneliness and that isolation, which is what happens to old people because their friends die," she said. "We lose people at Mirador, too, which is always sad, but there’s always somebody new moving in, so you’ve got instant friendships going on there."

And she's continued meeting people through the synchronized swim team.

"We all kind of know each other, but there are new people that have come into Mirador within the last several months, and so, we maybe didn’t know them as well," she said. "Now – now we’re best friends.”

And with modifications, they're able to be as active as they choose, and on their own terms.

"We have a lot of 90-year-olds — loads of them — and I’m convinced that it’s because of the community," she said. "And I’m hoping I’ll be in the middle of them, synchronized swimming."


A backstroke of genius: Local retirees start a synchronized swimming team