By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer, Report for America Corps Member
The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.
If there is one thing that Inez Augins-Watson embodies, it’s that age is merely a number. No matter how cliché the phrase is, she proves it to be true.
The 83-year-old spends her days teaching fitness classes and swimming lessons to members of her community – when she’s not enjoying the company of her four children, 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Augins-Watson views her athleticism as a gift from God, and she intends to take advantage of it for as long as she can.
“As a senior citizen, if you’re healthy enough or if you have the insight, and you have the gift that God has given you, then you need to use it for the good of the community,” Augins-Watson said. “This is not only helping me, but it’s helping them also.”
As a young girl, Augins-Watson grew up in West Baltimore, Maryland, and her mother constantly encouraged her to pursue sports. At six years old, she began swimming at Druid Hill Park, one of the only facilities African Americans were allowed to use at the time. She continued swimming every day in the summer into her teenage years, and she started diving lessons.
In her pre-teen and teenage years, she took up gymnastics, cheerleading and dancing. Augins-Watson intended to major in physical education and minor in dance at Morgan State University, but after high school, she became a young mother. She decided it was best to get her degree at Cortez Peters Business College.
During her careers as a system statistician, administrator and practice manager for various hospitals and medical offices, she was forced to take a break from athletics.
“That was my career for 35 or 40 years, but I always knew in the back of my mind that when I retired, I was going to get into something athletically,” Augins-Watson said.
Upon retirement in 1995, she immediately joined a gym to take exercise classes. Just a few years later, her daughter, Adrienne, opened Studio “A” in Randallstown, Maryland. The business offers dance lessons in ballet, modern, hip-hop, tap and pointe, as well as modeling and etiquette classes.
Adrienne recognized her mother’s love of fitness and asked her to teach exercise classes there, and she obliged. Her fitness instruction later expanded to her church’s congregation at Calvary Baptist Church, as well as Whirl Wynn Fitness Center in Downtown Baltimore. Her classes include pilates, yoga stretch, and floor and chair exercises.
When her daughter started a summer camp for young girls at Studio “A”, Augins-Watson began teaching swimming lessons. Not only did the campers participate but their parents also requested to be a part of the lessons. She teaches backstroke, freestyle, breaststroke and demonstrates how to tread water.
Augins-Watson credited her late husband with being one of her biggest supporters in fitness instruction. He regularly promoted all of the classes she led to his friends, and she said she could not have succeeded without his and her children’s encouragement.
For her, it is extremely important for senior citizens to stay active. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet gives older adults quality of life, according to Augins-Watson, and there is no age limit on engaging in physical activity.
“I don’t think of myself as ‘old,’ I think of myself as ‘older’ because you can be old at 50 if that’s your mindset,” Augins-Watson said.