On a good day, Mimi Lee can swim 50 yards in 38 seconds and 500 yards in 8 1/2 minutes. A couple of years ago, the 65-year-old widow of former Maryland acting governor Blair Lee III could swim 100 yards freestyle in one minute and 23 seconds. But she's slowed down a bit with age. Now her best is 1:26.

"Swimming is marvelous fun," says Lee, who swims three to five times a week and is a Red Cross water safety instructor. A competitive swimmer in college, Lee had almost a 30-year gap before she took up the sport again in 1972. Now she strongly advocates the sport to friends over and under 50.

"I try to tell them what fun it is," she says, "and how non-injurious it is. A lot of people really need the exercise, but it takes a lot to get them out. You just can't do it because it's good for you -- that's pretty ghastly. You have to make it fun with companionship.

"It's never too late to start swimming. It won't add much to the years, but it will make the quality of life higher and help in the maintenance of vigor."

Today Lee's workout consists of both quick laps and endurance swims.

"If you swim for a while, you get a lot more endurance," she says. "I used to think that it was marvelous that I could swim 20 lengths. Now that is just a warm-up -- not even much of a warm-up."

One of the benefits of swimming later in life is that "you have a good chance of setting some records," she says. "You'd be surprised how many records you can pick up in the eighties group. It's the one area where you can look forward to getting older.

"It'll be pretty dreary when I'm 69. But, oh boy, I can't wait for 70."