Elysia Iverson began rowing for exercise at 75, an age when most of her contemporaries were slowing down.
Her love affair with the sport began with an ad in the newspaper in 2001 for the formation of Ashland Rowing Club. Her husband had just retired, and she thought it sounded like something he'd be interested in pursuing.
"About a year later I said, 'Hey this sounds like fun. Maybe I can do it, too.' So I went to their clinic in 2002 "¦ I was older than everyone else, of course," Iverson explains.
Now 82, Iverson continues to row at Emigrant Lake when the weather cooperates. During the winter, she gets her thrice-weekly cardio workouts at the gym on a stationary bike, treadmill or an erg (rowing simulator).
In addition to her cardio workouts, she lifts weights three times a week. She takes a scientific approach, targeting specific muscle groups in her arms, legs and back she'll need for rowing.
Quiet, slim and of small stature, she sits with a perfectly straight back. The muscles in her shoulders and arms are defined. She speaks with a thoughtful and measured cadence about her lifelong commitment to fitness.
"I've always done exercise: swimming and bicycling a lot and hiking and skiing, both downhill and cross-country. A lot of that has gone by the wayside because both of us love rowing so much," Iverson says.
She also spent 10 years as an avid river rafter, especially in an inflatable Tahiti. As a child, she was an accomplished water skier, giving public ski shows in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She moved to Ashland in 1973.
The health benefits afforded by rowing are only part of the attraction.
"There's a satisfaction of accomplishment when you feel you're a fairly good rower," Iverson explains. Like many rowers, she began rowing with others in four-person and eight-person boats before tackling the single scull. Because of her light frame, she has served often as a coxswain, coaching and steering the other rowers.
Mental fitness is another factor in the equation.
Iverson reads a lot, whether it's the business section in the daily paper or a book she reads for her Ashland book group. The crossword puzzle is one of her favorite newspaper features.
Encouragement on the home front is a big plus.
"I'm fortunate to have a spouse who feels the same way, exercises the same way, even more than I do. We support each other," says Iverson.
As the oldest member of Ashland Rowing Club, Iverson serves as a role model for the younger women.
"I'm 60; she's in her 80s. It gives me hope that it's not over yet," says Cathy Tronquet, a friend of Iverson.
Like many of her contemporaries, Tronquet grew up before Title IX, when girls had limited opportunities for high-school athletic competition. Rowing provides an opportunity to experience the thrill of competition at any age.
"She's been involved in sport all her life. Watching her is a real inspiration," Tronquet says.
What often prevents seniors from staying in shape, according to Iverson, is motivation.
"It's in your head. You have to want to do this. If you want to do it, if you believe in consistent exercise, it's not hard to do," Iverson says.
"I do it whether I feel like it or not, and I generally feel like it before I'm through."