Swimming is for life…
Jurgen Schmidt, from California, is a retiree who swims about a mile almost every day at his Master’s Club. In a three minute video advert posted by Speedo, Schmidt, a retired controller for a meatpacking company who turned 92 in February, offers this telling advice to folks young and old… “Don’t be afraid to get in the water.”
In an interview with USA TODAY, Schmidt, who also cares for his 86-year-old wife, Adrianne, who has Alzheimer’s, says any short-term fame or talk-show visits almost certain to accompany this new commercial aren’t important. “I don’t have an inflated ego. I just have a love of the water,” he says.
He’s a Navy veteran who has been swimming in daily Masters swim practices for 41 years and who competes in about a dozen swim meets annually. By his own estimate, he has swum about 24,000 miles over the past 80 years — give or take a few hundred.
“Swimming,” he says, “is what I do.” Beginning at 5 am each day, he swims at his senior housing complex along with a 77-year-old pal whom he takes special pride in occasionally beating.
Why so early? “In afternoon, you have water walkers and noodle floaters in the pool,” he says. “If you want a real workout, you can’t do it with a bunch of other people in the water.”
Schmidt says he’s been wearing Speedo swimsuits for decades, though he prefers the longer versions. “You can wear them 40 or 50 times and they don’t get baggy,” he says.
For Speedo, it’s all part of an image redo — about trying to push its brand far beyond the limited market of competitive swimming to the much broader market of just-about anyone-who-likes-the-water. The online campaign, “Fueled by Water,” was created by the Culver City, Calif.-based agency Hello Design and features videos of 18 different water enthusiasts from swimmers to body surfers to divers.
The move makes perfect sense. While only 2 million Americans swim competitively, roughly 44 million swim, one way or another, for fitness, estimates the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
“Every four years, you see us in the Olympics with tons of medals,” says Jim Gerson, president of Speedo North America. “But Speedo is a rounder brand than that.” Sure, Speedo, whose parent, Warnaco, was purchased in 2013 by PVH, owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, still makes the bikini-style suits, but it also makes everything from board shorts to aquatic fitness suits.
None of this is by accident, notes David Stewart, professor of marketing at Loyola Marymount University. The nation’s fastest-growing age demographic is the 80-and-up segment, he says. With so many Americans living active lifestyles into their 80s, he says, “80 is the new 50.”
So what great thoughts go through Schmidt’s mind during all that time in the water — what is he thinking about? “Very little,” he says, somewhat sheepishly. “I concentrate on pushing and pulling the water through.”
Nor does he ever plan to leave the water. The video ends with a smiling Schmidt finishing a lap and swimming to the edge of the pool with these determined words: “I plan on competing until the very end.”
JURGEN’S FIVE LONGEVITY TIPS:
Eat well. His daily breakfast: Oatmeal, golden raisins, low-fat milk, orange juice and coffee.
Sleep well. He’s in bed by 9 p.m. every night and gets eight hours of sleep.
Stay active. He faithfully stretches and does floor exercises before his daily swim.
Stay engaged. He meets and converses daily with friends at his senior complex.
Count your blessings. “I’ve had a great life. I’m lucky.”