Learning how to swim isn't just for kids. Adults enjoy the water just as much as children, but their reasons for acquiring this skill may not be the same, instructors said.
Cynthia Walker is learning to swim as an adult due to a great fear of drowning. She learned to float in high school but never really mastered swimming. She said she is determined to acquire this skill now.
She discovered a big help when she started wearing goggles. She could see better and, as a result, she felt more secure and comfortable in the water.
Bri Thompson, swim instructor assistant, left, helps student Cynthia Walker with a swim technique during the learn-to-swim class at the YMCA of Trumbull County in Warren.
Janet Brooks said she also had a fear of the water. Though enrolled in a group class, she receives individualized instruction from Patricia King, swim instructor at the YMCA of Trumbull County in Warren, and she is conquering her fear. She said she has learned several swimming techniques including swimming on her back, treading water and floating.
Paulette Edington, youth program aquatic director, mentioned that usually when adults contact the YMCA of Trumbull County Warren Branch to inquire about learn to swim classes, it is because their physician encourages them to do so.
"More adults for their medical reasons are being encouraged to do water activities or pool activities if they have problems with their knees," Edington said. "It's easier on their joints in the pool. If you have asthma, swimming is good for that."
Many adults think they are the only ones who don't know how to swim. When they attend a class, they realize this is not true. Classes at the YMCA are limited to 12 people and are held several times during the year because of the need.
Classes begin with the very basics of swimming, starting with getting comfortable with their face in the water.
"They start with progressions. We teach them how to blow bubbles in the water so they can get their technique right and kicking and pointing their toes. They take them through every aspect of learning to swim just like they would with a young person," Edington said.
Vanessa Hughley has gone from being a non-swimmer afraid of the water to swimming on her back or forward from the low end of the pool to the deep end and back again in the YMCA's small instructional pool.
Family relations are often part of the reasons that an adult wants to take swim lessons.
Donald Orr said he likes to participate in activities with his grandniece and grandnephew. They know how to swim, so he wants to obtain the training to go swimming with them.
Another reason for adults learning to swim was offered by Karen Conklin, executive director of the American Red Cross of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties.
"I think people learn to swim because they see other people having fun or maybe they are fishermen or boaters," she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention younger adults are more likely to know how to swim, with adult males reporting more swimming ability than women. This trend continues. Nearly 90 percent of women 65 years old and older lack swimming skills.
The Jewish Community Center and the Red Cross have developed a program to address this.
"The Jewish Community Center and the Red Cross are working with Madonna Chism Pinkard (WFMJ-TV21 community relations director and host of Community Connection) because we really believe if a lot of kids can't swim, it's because their moms can't swim," Conklin said.
"Sixty-eight percent of minority children do not know how to swim. We are piloting a program in the fall called 'Madonna's Swimmin' Women' to give women the opportunity to come with Madonna and learn to swim," she said.
A website, Swimmunity, was created by a Minnesota woman, Larissa Rodriguez. It is an online group supporting and celebrating the accomplishments of adults learning to swim.
She wanted to let people know that they are not alone in not knowing how to swim as an adult and she encourages them to accomplish this goal for safety and for fun.
"Summers are filled with frequent news reports of adult drownings," Rodriguez said on the website. "This is a preventable occurrence, and learning to swim is an important first step. Water can be scary for many adults. But swim lessons and water safety knowledge can begin to change that."