Seniors take the plunge

A partnership between the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies and the public swimming pool inspired two octogenarians to join the adult Learn-to-Swim classes.

Within two weeks of joining, Mariam Naidoo, 82, can comfortably glide underwater now. Ms Naidoo comes all the way from Gleemoor for the swimming lessons in Bonteheuwel. Before joining the class, she “never got into the water”.

“I go to the beach a lot, but I cannot say why I never learnt to swim. I used to work at Valkenberg Hospital, and I had to join young people in the swimming pool, but I could never do that. Now my family is so excited for me,” Ms Naidoo said.

She said she follows the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies on Facebook, and wondered if they would accept her.

“This year I saw them posting about the swimming lessons. I encouraged my friend to join, and the two of us now thoroughly enjoy it. The exercise is good for my legs, especially since I had a knee replacement operation last year. I am happy to say that it is functioning very well. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy the exercises we do before we get into the pool, but I do enjoy the aqua aerobics. This motivates me to get up in the morning. I admire Soraya Salie. She is a great leader and an inspiration,” Ms Naidoo said.

Another newbie to the water, Sarah Magdalene Meiring, 80, said she grew up in Cape Town and went to school in Searle Street in Woodstock.

“The Trafalgar swimming pool is in that road, and I had to pass it to get to and from school, but I never learnt how to swim. As children, we spent more time in the park than anywhere else. All four of my children can swim, and two of my eight grandchildren can swim very well. I am sorry I didn’t start earlier. Coming here gives me the confidence that I need though. My grandchildren are always asking me to join them in the pool. I am still struggling a bit, but I know I will get there. I would like to thank Soraya Salie for arranging this and our instructor, Timothy Amos, for taking his time and being so patient with us,” Ms Meiring said.

Ms Salie, the founder member and chairperson of the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, said she has seen how the women’s confidence grew since the start of the swimming lessons. “The programme is designed for women to get over their fear of drowning. We have women coming from Manenberg, Salt River, Gugulethu and Surrey Estate who joined us. I posted about the lessons on Facebook to encourage people to join. Apart from the benefits of being able to swim, these lessons are also emotionally healing. The water washes the stress away. When we go home we feel rejuvenated. We want to encourage everybody to make use of this free service. Our motto as the Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, is to ‘walk, talk and empower’. We are empowering ourselves and others,” Ms Salie said.