• The number of people 65 and over is projected to double from 3.2 million people (14% of the population) in 2012 to 6.8 million (20%) by 2040 (Aust. Bureau Statistics)
  • In 2017 there were 70 drowning deaths in this age group – a 21% increase on last year (Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report)
  • Royal Life Saving Australia puts the average cost of one fatal drowning at $4.2 Million.

Do you like to visit the local pool to do laps, keep fit and soak up the sunshine? Maybe a trip to the local public pool is part of the daily routine of your aging Mum or Dad?

Our public aquatic facilities provide a great way for seniors to engage in regular low impact activity and stay mentally and physically strong. It’s also a good way to remain socially connected with friends who enjoy the same pursuits.

Seniors usually visit the pool in off peak times – after the early morning rush and before the school kids hit the pool for lessons. Unfortunately, this is also the time when there are not as many lifeguards on the pool deck, due to the lower ratios of people in the pool.

The 2017 Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report has identified a 21% increase on last year in drowning deaths among people aged 65 years and over. There were 70 drowning deaths in this age group across the 12 months. This is an alarming increase. Are more people in this age group drowning in public pools, because more people in this age group are using the pools?

Australia’s population is aging. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of people 65 and over is projected to double, from 3.2 million people (14 percent of the population) in 2012 to 6.8 million (20 percent) by 2040.

Our public pools need to be aware of the aging demographic of their patrons and put in place the necessary level of care and due diligence in safety planning and protocols.

People drown quietly and quickly and it can be very hard to detect them on the pool floor. Time is the main factor when it comes to saving a person’s life before permanent injury or death. A lifeguard has just 30 seconds in total to detect and perform a rescue before the danger zone. When there’s no lifeguard on deck, the chances of that occurring dramatically reduce.

So, what can governments and aquatic facilities do?

If you look around the world, more facilities are installing drowning detection technology in public pools to ensure 100% surveillance of the pool every minute of the day. If a person is drowning, alarms will sound within 10 seconds, alerting the lifeguards as to the exact position of the person in the pool so an immediate rescue can occur.

The aim is to achieve the ‘gold standard’ in pool supervision. This involves layering the levels of supervision to include lifesavers alongside 100% surveillance of the pool via computer vision.

These systems are saving lives every day in public pools around the world. The cost of installing a system of this nature is less than 2% of the cost to build a new public pool, so why is it not compulsory?

Royal Life Saving Australia calculates that the average cost of one fatal drowning sits at $4.2 million. The cost of installing life-saving drowning technology in our public pools represents around just 3.5% of this economic cost.
Now consider the cost of a non-fatal drowning – someone who may have been rescued and resuscitated, but not fast enough, already suffering permanent brain injury requiring 24-hour medical care over many years. This cost is too great to be calculated accurately at this stage.

While government’s mull over this, there are some things you can do now if you are over 65 and love to swim.

  1. Swim with a buddy and make sure you are both watching out for each other constantly
  2. As you enter the pool, make yourselves known to the lifeguard and ask that they keep an extra keen watch on you while you swim
  3. Next time you’re talking to your local government member, ask them why your local pool is not using the latest technology in drowning detection to save the lives of their constituents.

Drowning is preventable, but right now, too many people are drowning in Australia’s public pools across all age groups, with seniors a particularly growing concern.


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