"I love being able to take a frightened adult and teach them not only to swim but to embrace the water as healing and pleasurable. It is such a blessing to be able to give to others what was given to me."

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
July 31, 2019
Tim Tadder

In June, the National Senior Games wrapped in Albuquerque, New Mexico and we still can't get over the awe-inspiring performances of the 50+ set. Like how about Baton Rouge resident Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins? The 103-year-old runner put many couch potatoes half her age to shame in this year's races.

Indeed, Hawkins wasn't alone in representing the South at the National Senior Games. We recently had the chance to pick the brain of another Baton Rouge rock star, DeEtte Sauer, 77, who participated in the swimming competitions. Humana, longtime partner of the National Senior Games, gave us the chance to learn more about Sauer's incredible journey to become a champion swimmer and Texas Senior Olympics Hall of Famer.

The now Houston resident and Baton Rouge native, who was also a member of the Humana Game Changers program in 2013, wasn't always a picture of good health, let alone award-winning athlete. In fact, following decades of living a sedentary lifestyle, she became morbidly obese. "In the late '90s I went to the doctor for a checkup and was told that I had high levels of plaque in my arteries and if there were no intervention I could expect a heart event in 5 years," Sauer told Southern Living.

"With that sobering news I began to work even harder at my new found sport. Nine years later a cardiologist confirmed the swimming, my adherence to a healthy diet, and the prescribed med had reversed my condition. Swimming literally saved my life. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would become an athlete in my senior years. Crazy!! Crazy good!!! This former non-swimmer, unremarkable person became a champion swimmer. You can teach an old dog new tricks," she continued.

Humana

But swimming has done so much for Sauer than improve her physical health. "The strength and energy gained through my training and competition has helped me actively participate in the lives of young people. I tutor at a local public elementary school working with those kids who are way behind their peers and need the extra attention. All of these activities keep me stimulated and excited," she said. "Just recently I began teaching adults to swim. I love being able to take a frightened adult and teach them not only to swim but to embrace the water as healing and pleasurable. It is such a blessing to be able to give to others what was given to me. I will always be grateful to the young woman who taught me to swim!"

WATCH: 92-Year-Old South Carolina Woman Earns Fourth College Degree

"Having just returned from the National Senior Games presented by Humana, I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for the all that I’ve gained. Of course, there are medals, but the real reward is what I carry home in my heart — thousands of inspirational stories from my fellow National Senior Games athletes and Humana Game Changers who show me what’s possible," offered Sauer. "Watching the athletes who compete while undergoing chemo…..knowing the stories of those who are coming back from serious injuries or life-threatening disease…..observing the courage of the ones who have undergone multiple surgeries and continue….thousands of inspirational stories. That stimulates and motivates me to keep going. If I were to give advice to another older adult, I would tell them to think carefully about what kind of senior years they want to experience and be willing to invest in that vision. Be intentional about aging. Make living well a priority."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Here's to many more laps across her second home in the water.

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