More than 20 Long Island senior adults took to rowing machines Saturday hoping to break world records.
The rowers, ranging in age from 72 to 101, are veterans or spouses of veterans at six Atria Senior Living residences on Long Island.
“I didn’t know about setting records. I just knew I could do it with one hand,” said Ruth Schaufler, 81, who lives at Atria Hertlin Place in Lake Ronkonkoma.
Schaufler, who lost the use of an arm after a stroke three years ago, competed at the morning event at Atria East Northport, rowing 358 meters in 4 minutes, and 104 meters in 1 minute. She hopes to have broken a world record for rowing using only her right arm.
“I feel good,” she said, proudly wearing a medal while sitting on the Olympic indoor water rower. “It makes you feel good mentally and physically. It’s something I can do with this disability, so it’s good.”
Schaufler, whose late husband was a Korean War veteran, was one of eight individuals hoping to break records in the morning; another 13 competed Saturday afternoon at Atria Roslyn Harbor. They strived to achieve 50 World and American indoor rowing records in different categories based on their age, weight and gender, as well as for the largest group of records set in one day, Atria officials said. Their times will be sent to a world record certification agency in Vermont.
"The residents that live with us really enjoy having something to strive towards and then achieve it, and that makes them feel very happy and satisfied, and gives them purpose," said Becky Gallucci, Atria’s divisional engage life innovation director.
Rowing strengthens core muscles, helping to prevent injuries and falls, said Paul-Stephen Varszegi, founder and president of the Trumbull, Connecticut-based nonprofit group U.S. Veterans Rowing and Kayaking Foundation, who coached the seniors.
And they’re leaving a legacy for their family, he said. “They’ll be able to say hey, my grandfather set a world record in rowing. And to be able to accomplish something like this at their age is really amazing.”
Cheered on by her family and friends from the community, Marie Drago, 91, was among the day's biggest stars, rowing 6,494 meters in 1 hour.
“I wasn’t even counting,” said Drago, who also lives at Atria Hertlin Place. “I just kept going. I pushed.”
Rowing has helped Drago’s health and strength, said her daughter Patty Citro, 62, of Hauppauge. “This has given her an opportunity not just for physical wellness, but her self esteem. And she feels like she has a place, being part of the team.”
It was “amazing” to see her mother complete the challenge,” Citro said. “But, she’s always been amazing.”
Joe Mor, 93, who served as a Navy aviation machinist mate in World War II, rowed 543 meters in 4 minutes, breaking a record for his age.
“It just keeps me going,” Mor, an Atria Hertlin Place resident, said of rowing. “That’s my main theory. Got to keep moving.”