September 25, 2012

In My Opinion: A tempest over temperature


---- — The pool at the Wellness Center at PARC just isn’t fun anymore.

Where the gray-haired ladies (the majority of the daily water aerobics classes) used to compare recipes or share books they had read or discuss quilting, now they speak of conspiracy theories, revenge and takeovers.

They used to laugh a lot, but rarely is a laugh heard these days. How quickly things can change.

This was the place where I found peace, where people of contrasting views got together and exchanged friendly “hellos” regardless of their political and social outlook. The pool is where I headed to heal my old body. I lost 65 pounds in the process and dramatically improved my health. My friend Bob Grady told me, when we met for our periodic lunches, that I seemed to “have more pep in my step.” It was mainly due to the pool.

But lately the pool has been the cause of more stress than comfort. A new management has taken over, and the temperature of the formerly warm and comfortable water has been lowered to accommodate swimmer-athletes who happen to be younger.

Just the other day, I heard a pool regular in her 80s (like me) say that coming to the pool was the only daily activity she had and that she didn’t know what she was going to do if she had to stop coming. But she couldn’t take the cold water.

What is the fight about? Without any prior discussion or notice, one day we arrived for our swim and, to our surprise, the water temperature had been lowered to somewhere around 80 or 81 when it was usually kept somewhere around 85 or 86 degrees. The posted signs that stated that the pool temperature was maintained between 83 and 88 degrees had been removed. It was just too cold for most of us, and many left.

We were advised that there had been complaints from younger lap swimmers that the water was too warm. Pools used for racing and Ironman training are usually kept around 78 degrees, much too cold for us in the gray-haired crowd.

The essence of the problem is that there are conflicting interests, as far as water temperature is concerned. But while the younger swimmers might like it a bit colder, they can (and do) swim in warmer water. Older folks suffering from arthritis, bad backs and other reminders of old age simply can’t take the cold.

One might think that such a drastic and unexpected change from what has been normal for many years would have at least involved a friendly discussion prior to lowering the temperature.

But that did not happen, and, to their credit, management has apologized. But at the moment we have no assurance that things will return to normal.

The building housing the pool is advertised as a “Wellness Center.” Wellness is more than lifting weights, riding bikes or exercising in a pool. It is also more than comparing the temperature of the pool to numbers on a chart.

Wellness comes from the inside and how people feel about their surroundings. Well people are happy people.

Right now, there are a lot of older folks at the so-called Wellness Center who have paid their membership dues but do not feel particularly welcome.

Ken Wibecan is a retired journalist. Once an op-ed and jazz columnist, later an editor of Modern Maturity magazine, these days he and his two dogs enjoy the country life in Peru. He can be reached at