SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The fountain of youth can be found with Silverstone’s swim team at Vi (pronounced Vee), a residential retirement community located in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Living Well” is the phrase they live by, and their residents embrace these two words to the fullest. Silverstone’s seven team members are in their late 70s to early 90s, redefining what 70-plus years old looks like.
All it takes is one person to make a change. Team captain – or “Coach” – Jerry Anderson, 86, started swimming laps in 1978 per doctor recommendation to help ease an advancing orthopedic condition from prior sports-related injuries. Anderson logged 1,000 miles in his first six years of swimming, averaging just over 150 miles per year in the pool.
He is the first member of Silverstone’s “1,000 Mile Ring of Honor Club,” accomplishing his first 1,000 miles in Vi Living’s very own indoor pool. His enthusiasm spread to other residents, and they joked that they were the Vi at Silverstone swim team. The crew steadily increased their total workouts per week and distance swum to progress toward their 1,000-mile goal.
The team even printed shirts to display when they will achieve the 1,000-mile goal. The red team shirts are similar to what you might see in college for an athlete who is redshirting, honing their skills before they take on the monumental task of completing the 1,000 miles.
For those who are quick with the math, you might have already calculated how many lengths add up to 1,000 miles. These tough guys aim to complete at least 106,000 lengths in a 50-foot pool to accomplish their goal.
There is talk of creating a Century Club for those who achieve 100 miles to celebrate this milestone.
The team roster nearly doubled from four to seven in 2018. Team members include William Pihl (80), Jim Graber (74),Gordon “Gordo” Schubert (91), Jerry Anderson, Joe Kinney (91), Mike Patrow (71), and Dick Govig (84).
While not all of the men came from a swimming background, they quickly formed a tight-knit group working toward a common goal. Anderson was able to recruit Kinney and Schubert to start unofficial team practices in the mornings. Upon Kinney and Schubert turning 90 and Anderson turning 85, the three celebrated their birthdays by swimming each others’ ages in laps.
Schubert was an easy recruit to the team, as he started swimming at a young age and earned a high school letter. He was a member of a freestyle relay team that earned fifth place at the championships, which was a big deal for his small high school. Kinney always enjoyed swimming but really joined for the team camaraderie.
Anderson’s first 1,000 miles captured Patrow’s interest, who didn’t quite know what he had gotten himself into. Patrow was a runner for many years, but knee issues in 1992 confronted him to seek other exercise options – swimming was the perfect alternative.
Silverstone’s 2018 “Rookie Class” starts with William Pihl, who began swimming in his youth at a
YMCA, where he progressed to a Red Cross certified life guard and water safety instructor. He continued on to leadership roles as head guard in charge of swim schools, a water show team, and a synchronized swim team (who won the national title and attended the Olympics as a demonstration sport) for the City of Salinas, Calif.
Pihl had an impressive stint as a lifeguard, including an ocean rescue of two soldiers from Fort Ord – a former United States Army post on Monterey Bay of the Pacific Ocean coast in California. Recently, his swimming has taken a back seat to other hobbies, but the one thing he can always count on to bring him back is the camaraderie of the Silverstone team.
Jim Graber, another rookie, began swimming in 1982 with a class that fit into his lunch break. This class opened up a passion for the sport, and Graber credits swimming with keeping him flexible for the other sports he likes to play, such as softball and pickleball. He is averaging over 200 miles per year, hoping to hit the 1,000 Mile Ring of Honor in record time!
The final rookie for the 2018 class is Dick Govig. He began his swimming endeavors in the rivers, lakes, and streams of rural Iowa during his youth. Because his family owned a boat, water activities were commonplace. Govig’s two sons were competitive swimmers growing up, so he has experienced many swim meets from the stands. Now, he’s looking forward to it being “dad’s turn” to swim.
Get on that health kick!
It becomes increasingly difficult to stay physically and mentally sharp with age, and social stigmas regarding populations over 60 years old are plentiful – their bodies don’t seem to be able to keep up with physical demands of staying healthy, and mental hindrances tend to arise. Dementia, among other but perhaps the most commonly known diseases, can plague the minds of many loved ones as they age. There are also strong, rather negative views toward people dealing with these symptoms and atrophies of the brain.
The most predominant view of people with diseases like Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, is that they are socially withdrawn. Staying connected socially and physically active can help delay the decline in brain functioning, making swimming a great outlet to for all-around health.
A Championship Team
You may be wondering where the team competes or how many trophies they’ve earned; however, this team isn’t about competition or awards. They don’t travel to swim meets, and the only award is the T-shirt that Coach Jerry has printed for each of their milestone photo ops. Silverstone’s team is a group of guys helping to motivate each other and building camaraderie!
This group has only recently become friends, and they hold each other accountable to the 1000-mile goal while making the journey as enjoyable as possible.
Whether you’re in age group swimming or about to end your career, know that swimming doesn’t have to end because you are not competing anymore. Goals can always be set, no matter how Herculean they may seem or what age you are.
Excite people with your goal, and they just may join you. Achieve something together!
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.
(Ed. note): Jerry Anderson grew up in Warba, graduated from Grand Rapids High School and is a member of the Grand Rapids High School Sports Hall of Fame.