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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

84-year old fitness guru volunteers in Horseshoe Bend

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Shooting hoops, winning track races, triumphing in swim competitions and teaching an aquatic class is all in a day's fun for 84-year-old Helene Keen of Horseshoe Bend who holds a record in the 100-meter freestyle in Arkansas.

Nothing is stopping Senior Olympian Helene Keen, who has won over 100 gold medals in the state of Arkansas. "Physical fitness is the secret of life. Age is just a number," she said.

Keen is a fitness guru who volunteers her time by teaching an aquatic class with a group of women and a man at the Hillhigh Hotel and Spa two days a week. She said water keeps a person young. Her philosophy is to do it all while she can. It's a challenge for seniors to realize they can do more, she said.

Keen said the Senior Olympics is a competition for those over the age of 50. Competitors must follow the same guidelines as the U.S. Olympics. She said before a competitor can compete in the state competition one requirement is to have won a gold medal in Arkansas. She said "It's something that motivates you."

After Keen competed in the U.S. Senior Olympic Competition in Orlando it was a sweet victory to take home four silver medals in 1999 in swimming competition, since over 8,000 competed. She won a gold medal in the 400-meter run in Baton Rouge, La.

Part of her exercise regime includes swimming and basketball. She said water exercise is one of the best exercises for a person, and she has great admiration for anyone who goes into the water.

She said she enjoys teaching the class and has fun. She likes to help motivate people. Her class started out with just a few but is growing, and she believes the aquatic class benefits the students.

Keen's goal is to work with the class, instructing members so eventually they can continue on their own. She said she is very strict, learning discipline in World War II as a physical therapist in the U.S. Army.

Keen is known prominently as a member of the Silver Bullets Basketball Team, joining in 1990 at the request of Helen Darnell, founder of the team and the first person to start a women's only senior basketball competition in the state.

The notoriety the Silver Bullets proved fruitful when team players received an invitation to appear on the Arsenio Hall Show.

Keen treasures her memories of days and nights traveling with the basketball team during their road trips to various games, playing in Las Vegas, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and New York.

Keen's past reflects an interest in health and fitness. She recalled a time she worked as a massage therapist and made residential calls in Chicago for Elizabeth Arden. Past employment included working for an orthopedic surgeon.

Her journey as a massage therapist and physical therapist for 50 years served her well when she started working at the Hillhigh Resort in 1978. She performed massages on club members, she taught water exercise, floor exercise and general physical fitness.

The one male student in her class, Elmer Crouch, 84, of Glencoe has not slowed her class down one bit, she said. She added he has been fun to work with and appears to be a go-getter.

Crouch's daughter, Janice Fae Mitchell, said Keen is an amazing example who people look up to.

Keen said the spa is open seven days a week for people to take advantage of; they just need to get off the couch. She said swimming is good for those with heart problems.

The aquatic class is held in the heated pool at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and 2 p.m. on Thursday. Classes are free to pool or spa members. The spa offers the largest pool in northeast Arkansas, a steam room, eucalyptus room, jacuzzi, sauna and tanning booths.

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