Over-55s graduate Open Water Grey Medallion pilot program

Thirteen Victorians graduated from LSV’s first Open Water Grey Medallion program in March, after completing a five-week water safety and lifesaving skills course.

Following the successful implementation of an aquatics and health promotion program targeted at older Victorians across aquatic facilities, the Open Water Grey Medallion program was piloted at Torquay beach on the Surf Coast.

Targeted at those aged 55 years and older with varied aquatic experience, the pilot delivered content on personal survival techniques, accredited CPR training, and helped develop confidence and competence to safely enjoy activities in open water environments.

These environments differ to swimming pools and hold greater dangers; by providing education, formal training and practical skills in open water, this expansion of the program aims to reduce the number of people aged over 55 years drowning through preventable aquatic incidents.

LSV drowning incident research has found that common contributing factors for drowning in older adults include unintentional entry, underlying medical conditions, reduced fitness and reliance on skills gained earlier in life.

In evaluating the program, participants said that it had made them more aware of the hazards and dangers, as well as being an enjoyable new training opportunity, with comments including:

“I’ve been at this beach for 45 years, but it was good to become aware of things that you didn’t really appreciate and understand: currents, tides, resuscitation … it was exactly what I needed,” said one participant.

“I’m a confident swimmer, I swim every day at the beach; but what it taught me was that you can be over-confident. It’s given me a reality check and a different way of approaching water safety”;

“When you retire there a fewer opportunities to engage in training… I felt quite proud that I was in this curse and I told other people and they were interested”;

“I feel more appreciative of surf lifesaving clubs. I didn’t realise how much they do.so … it makes me feel more connected with the surf lifesaving movement”.

LSV Membership & Leadership Development Manager Kate McLauchlan says the pilot has been a success, with participants learning vital emergency response skills and water safety awareness.

“Last year we saw a 40 per cent increase in the drowning rate of those aged 65 and over, compared to the average over the previous 10 years (2005-2015),” she said.

“Furthermore, over a third of drowning deaths in Victoria were as a result of unintentional water entry, including slips, trips and falls and this is of particular concern for the senior age group.

“Participation in the Open Water Grey Medallion program encourages older adults to enjoy the water safely and equips them with vital lifesaving skills should they find themselves in trouble in the water, as well as skills that could be put to use in an everyday emergency, which are very handy to have if you have grandchildren and other young visitors’’.

Delivered with State Government support, the pilot was delivered free of charge to older Victorians with a view to becoming a permanent fixture in LSV’s training schedule.

If you, or someone you know, may be interested in participating in an Open Water Grey Medallion program in future, contact Kate McLauchlan on 03 9676 6900.

For more information on the pool-based Grey Medallion program, visit our website

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