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Seniors finding fountains of youth in local pools

By Ed Brock

Carolyn Sandlin eases into the pool at the Amerihost Hotel in Stockbridge, hoping to wash away her pain in the warm water.

Sandlin, 77, leaves her cane at poolside, the cane she needs for balance since she suffers from Parkinson's Disease.

"When I come in here I can barely walk," said Sandlin, who lives in the Eagle's Landing subdivision near the hotel. "I can be in the water for a little while and it feels like all this is taken off me."

Sandlin is one of the senior citizens who say they are finding relief through the program offered by S.S. & Company Water Fitness & Therapy Specialists.

It's all about movement through the water, S.S. & Company owner Sharon Smith-Lamb said.

"Movement heals your body," Smith-Lamb said.

And Smith-Lamb says her program goes beyond healing. They also teach seniors to serve as swim instructors and lifeguards.

Older people can make very good lifeguards, Smith-Lamb said. They are loyal, committed and punctual and can pass the physical tests like swimming 500 yards and retrieving a 10-pound brick from the bottom of a pool.

Pat Winfrey of Fayetteville has been a lifeguard for several years now in Smith-Lamb's program. She refuses to give her precise age but says she's "well over 65."

"It's a good focus for seniors to say you can do something else beside sitting down and saying I can't do anything else with my life," Winfrey said.

She's had to rescue several people, young and old, in her years as a lifeguard.

"I'm awful glad I knew what to do and was quick enough to do it," Winfrey said.

Winfrey works sometimes at the Eagle's Landing Country Club pool and teaches swimming lessons and water fitness lessons to seniors at Jonesboro Hoops & Fitness. She wants people to know that being in the water is a health benefit.

Baba Bey of Riverdale, a yoga instructor for 36 years, is working with Smith-Lamb to become a lifeguard as well. His

"Water is resistance. If you weigh this water you'd probably have 800 pounds of water," said 61-year-old Bey, indicating the Amerihost's indoor pool. "Working with resistance is excellent."

Smith-Lamb began her career over 20 years ago in her backyard pool, helping her father after he lost a foot to diabetes. Like Bey, Smith-Lamb also uses meditation to help the people in her class with their mental health along with their physical health. They use and "American style" meditation, telling their students to just focus on pleasant imagery, like a waterfall or their favorite color.

"I tell them put yourself on a vacation somewhere," Smith-Lamb said.

The water therapy classes also give the participants a "dose of life."

"A lot of them, this is the only social interaction they have in the day," Smith-Lamb said.

Bey, who directed the Friday morning "Arthritis Plus" class in which Sandlin was participating, also said the classes have to be fun.

"We will show them how to have fun, and also how to be a better health agent," Bey said.

Alice Martin, 79, of Ellenwood said the Arthritis Plus class helps with her over all movement and overcoming her osteoporosis. But it's also "the best thing I do."

"We get to giggling and carrying on," Martin said. "We laugh a lot."

Other members of the class also swear by its benefits. Like many others, Dora Jenkins, 64, of Stockbridge came to the class on her doctor's recommendations. She has arthritis and was suffering from trouble with her sciatic nerve.

"I have not had a problem with it since I started and my knees have improved a lot," Jenkins said.

Smith-Lamb said she has well over 500 people in her program and along with the Amerihost pool they have a year-round location at Jonesboro Hoops & Fitness and other seasonal programs at other locations.

The program costs between $40 and $75 a month and, while the cost usually isn't covered under medical insurance, some insurance companies offer discounts for clients who participate in such classes.

Each instructor is also trained in pool maintenance and they check the pool chemicals diligently to make sure the water has the right chemical balance.

For more information on S.S. & Company's programs, call (770) 472-9121 or go to ssandcowaterfitness.com.