At 94, senior swimmer still strong in the water

Jean Beauchamp, 94, has been one of the regular early morning swimmers at the Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center all summer. A swimmer since age 6, Beauchamp says she enjoys exercising in the pool.
Jean Beauchamp, 94, has been one of the regular early morning swimmers at the Hillsboro Family Aquatic Center all summer. A swimmer since age 6, Beauchamp says she enjoys exercising in the pool.
Most weeks this summer, one will see regulars at the Hills­boro Family Aquatic Center for an early morning swim.

“I have probably six regulars that swim every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said Marci Cain, who manages the aquatic center and opens the pool from 5:30-8 a.m. for lap swimming on those days.

Some days it’s those six, said Cain, and then some days there’s as many as 17.

“They’re not all here at the same time,” she said. “It’s pretty sporadic.”

Two of Cain’s regulars are Jean Beauchamp, 94, and daughter Marilyn Bartel, both of Hillsboro.

Bartel picks up her mother so they can arrive at the pool where they’ll swim from 6-7 a.m. in the lap section, which is the deep end of the pool.

“I swim about five or six laps,” Beauchamp said about her early morning routine.

Cain, in her ninth summer as pool manager, said initially one lifeguard had expressed some concern about a 94-year-old swimming in the deep end of the pool. She assured the guard that would not be a problem.

“This is what she likes to do,” Cain said. “She makes me a lot less nervous than other people.”

Because Beauchamp swims year round, when the Hillsboro pool closes at Labor Day, she and her daughter will travel to Marion’s indoor pool at the Sports and Aquatic Center, a cooperative effort with USD 408 and the city of Marion.

Asked what she enjoys about swimming, Beau­champ said, “I don’t know. It’s just in my blood and I enjoy doing it.”

Beauchamp, who walks with a cane, said she sometimes uses “a wonderful chair that I can push around and sit in (when shopping at the mall).” As she’s gotten older, she’s had to change her preferred swimming strokes.

“I have to use the breast (stroke) because I can’t swim under water anymore,” she said. “I can’t breathe, and I use backstroke because it’s the easiest.”

Growing up in Lawrence, Mass., a mill town north of Boston, Beauchamp said she started swimming when she was about 6 years old.

“I think she was overcome by the water,” Beau­champ said about her mother’s decision that her daughter learn to swim. “She grew up in Belvidere, Neb. There’s very little water down there, and in Lawrence we were on the Merrimack River and had ponds and lakes all around and were 26 miles from the ocean. So she saw to it that I had lessons right away.”

Beauchamp said she earned her junior lifesaving certificate when she lived in Lawrence.

“It was very difficult because it was on a big lake,” she said.

After high school graduation, Beauchamp and her mother moved to Kansas City, Mo., where she attended Kansas City Teachers College and continued her commitment to swimming.

“I got my senior (lifesaving) in college in an indoor pool,” she said. “It wasn’t hard at all.”

In Kansas City, Beau­champ raised her children, Marilyn and son Mark Beauchamp, who lives in Olathe, and made sure they learned to swim, too.

After moving to Hillsboro in 2001 to be near her daughter, Beauchamp said she started swimming at the pool the week she moved in.

“There was a very nice manager at the pool in 2001,” she said. “I asked how much to pay and if there was an annual fee. She said it was $70 or $60.”

Beauchamp said she was told there was no senior citizens rate.

“So I went and paid whatever she asked,” Beauchamp said. “But when I came out of the pool, she said, ‘We’re going to give you a refund. We’re going to have a senior charge.’”

Over the years, Beau­champ has appreciated Cain as pool manager.

“She’s wonderful,” she said, adding that, if asked, Cain can even provide a hot cup of coffee for early morning swimmers.

Those who choose to exercise in the pool can experience its advantages.

“With the heat in the summer, swimming is such a good way to not get overheated when you’re trying to exercise,” Cain said, adding that one of her regular early morning swimmers walks to the pool and then swims for about two hours.

Also, swimming is a low-weight bearing exercise.

“I think it’s good because you don’t have that impact with your joints,” she added.

Also, people can benefit from exercising at the pool even if they don’t swim laps.

“I do have two ladies that come and do some exercises in the shallow water, which is fine, too,” Cain said. “We have weights, water dumb bells and kickboards.”

Cain usually has one lifeguard on duty during early morning swimming and she’s on duty during that time, too.

“This is my passion,” Cain said. “If I could do this full time, I would be at the pool full time.”