Adults face fears, learn how to swim

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- At 68 years old, Paulette McDaniel still surprises herself.

She’s taking swim lessons for the first time.

"I can't believe that I can actually tread water. I can't believe it,” she said.

McDaniel says it was years of fear that held her back.

"I had a fear of being in water deeper than I am tall and I wanted to get over that,” she said.

Just three weeks ago, she took her first lesson at the Fulton Family YMCA in Winston-Salem.

What’s particularly interesting is that McDaniel’s story is a common one -- many adults have never learned to swim.

“I believe that because they didn’t learn how to swim at a younger age, as they get older that fear just kind of takes over and it just becomes something so fearful that they don't even want to try,” Donna Stoddard, aquatics and senior adult director at Fulton YMCA, said.

A recent Red Cross survey shows that more than half of Americans either can’t swim or don’t have all the basic swimming skills.

According to the same survey, only one in three Americans could perform all five.

McDaniel explains that as an African-American woman, growing up, people in the black community didn’t have access to pools.

Even now, many of her friends can’t swim.

"Most don't, but I have to say that most when they become seniors they’ll start to do things that we never had the opportunity to do when we were younger,” McDaniel said.

"We are seeing more adults and more minorities. We have a lot of the Hispanic population coming in and the Indian population is another one that is huge here,” Stoddard said.

McDaniel says although her son and her grandchildren swim, she is happy to be able to join them.

“That's something I think everybody should learn to do, is to swim. You don't have to be a pro, but you should conquer that fear of water."