How I move: 91-year-old sea swimmer Bev Evans

Bev Evans will be 92 this September, and despite a few spells in hospital over recent years, she’s still a keen sea swimmer. Bright and bubbly, she’s a prime example of how keeping active as you get older can boost both physical and mental health.

How do you keep active?

I’ve always loved swimming since I was a little girl and my parents had a bach at Cornwallis Beach. And I still love it to this day, at 91. I try to go every day in the warmer months.

Do you swim alone or with others?

It depends on the day. There’s quite a group of us who have all been doing this for years and we often catch up down there. We’ve known each other for so long it’s become a bit of a social thing too – once a year we all get together for a gathering or a barbecue on the beach. I’ve got to know lots of people around here, as I’ve lived around the Kohimarama area [East Auckland] since I was 20, and now I’m at St Andrew’s Retirement Village, which is not that far away, so it’s still easy to get there. If no one is going, my son takes me, because sometimes I struggle a bit to get in and out of the water. But it’s okay if I’m on my own; I just ask and someone will always help me. My balance isn’t what it used to be and the wet sand can be a bit undulating and soft.

Do you swim in the sea all year?

No, it gets too cold in winter. I usually stop around May and start again in November, but I do know a lady who’s 85 and she swims all year – she just lives across the road from the beach; I think she’s marvellous! I think this year I’ll do aqua aerobics at the pool at Sacred Heart College over winter. I’ve done it before and it was good.

Why swimming rather than walking?

I actually find swimming much easier than walking these days. You don’t need the same balance and the water supports you. I’ve had a couple of falls, so I need to be careful now. I’ve always loved the sea. My husband and I were both very fond of fishing and we’d often wheel the dinghy out down at Kohi Beach to do that. Can’t do it these days, of course, but I can still swim. I just love it.

Do you think swimming has big health benefits for you?

Definitely – it’s therapy for me, and I think it does keep you fit and healthy. I’ve had a couple of big bowel cancer operations and I’ve recovered from both of them well, and last year when I had to have the second operation I didn’t even need chemo or a bag. Maybe that’s all to do with keeping fit. I’m having a better year this year. Last year I fractured my pelvis and had to spend a month in hospital, but I’ve come out of that all right and I’m still able to swim, so that’s good.

Is swimming part of a wider healthy lifestyle for you?

I’ve always been reasonably healthy. My husband and I have always been keen gardeners and used to grow plenty of fruit and vegetables to eat, so that probably helped. And I’ve been pretty active for as long as I can remember. I’m 92 in September, so I suppose I’m doing okay, aren’t I?


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