In 2016, LSV made the strategic decision to bring the innovative Grey Medallion water safety course for those aged 55+ to an open water environment. Now, work is underway to widen the program’s reach into aged-care facilities, as well as through an online program for participants who can no longer leave their homes due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.
“We’re looking into new opportunities for this important age group, because the social connection and confidence-building elements of the Open Water Grey Medallion (OWGM) program are more important than ever for this vulnerable age group,” said Emma Atkins, LSV’s General Manager People.
The program is based on the Royal Life Saving Society’s successful Grey Medallion program – a water safety and lifesaving skills program, with the aim to reduce drowning deaths in those aged 55 and over, while encouraging social connection and a healthy, independent and active lifestyle.
It is hoped the new Open Water Grey Medallion offerings will result in a wide array of Victorians being able to access the program.
Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club hosted the first 2020 program delivered by LSV, showcasing the new training room to a new cohort of the community. The participants have all gone on to become new and very enthusiastic members of the club.
“Even older people who don’t go swimming in the ocean benefit from the program,” said LSV’s Manager – Research, Rhiannon Birch. “That’s because the most common factor contributing to drowning incidents in older adults is unintentional entry into the water after a slip, trip or fall.”
She said other contributing factors include underlying medical conditions, a reliance on water safety skills gained earlier in life, an overestimation of current abilities, reduced fitness levels, and increased exposure to water through aquatic activities and time spent near water following retirement.
The program includes many areas of lifesaving, beginning with basic first aid to self-survival techniques, all of which are transferable skills that can be used on the beach, in a pool environment and in the broader community. These skills are also important for older people who supervise grandchildren around water.
“The nice thing is that it’s often the social connection and confidence-building elements of the program that are most beneficial immediately,” said Emma. “It can be a lot of fun getting out of your comfort zone and bonding with new friends, while feeling uplifted by being in or around the water.”
It can also help with bonding within families and, on the other side of the Bay, Deiny Peterson (66) now joins daughter Adel Peterson (48) and granddaughter Remme Mason (13) on lifesaving patrol at Mornington, after completing the Open Water Grey Medallion program hosted at Hampton SLSC last year.
“The Grey Medallion gave me confidence and it was great fun to learn new skills,” said Deiny. “It spurred me on to getting further qualifications so I could patrol.”
“I’m so proud of her,” said Remme. “It’s so inspirational to see my grandmother bring back to the club what she learnt doing the Grey Medallion; not many people get to learn those skills.”
The OWGM program has three streams – introductory, intermediate and advanced program offerings, and can be tailored to the physical abilities of each participant.
If you’re interested in being part of an upcoming Open Water Grey Medallion Program, please complete the following Expression of Interest form: