Swimming and Water Safety Among Older Adults

An older woman in the swimming pool

Half of all drowning deaths recorded in WA are adults aged 45 years and over. A range of factors may influence the risk of drowning in this age group, including pre-existing medical conditions, alcohol consumption, impact of medications and restricted mobility. 


In partnership with researchers from Curtin University, Royal Life Saving WA undertook research in 2019 to explore risks, perceptions of water safety and factors associated with drowning among older adults. The findings from this research informed the development of the Make The Right Call water safety campaign for Western Australian adults.  

Cluster analysis

Coronial data was used to create profiles of those had drowned in WA. Those who has drowned were mostly males and a large proportion were between the ages of 65 and 70. Unique clusters of risk factors were identified including poor health and participation in boating and fishing. 

The findings of this study were published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education.

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In-depth interviews

In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with adults over the age of 65 to examine water safety knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Findings highlighted low water safety literacy and suggest that older people not only underestimate their drowning risk, but also lack an understanding of the risk factors for drowning.

The findings of this study were published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia. 

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Falls: a drowning risk

A new study released in 2022 has found that one fifth of drowning deaths in older Australians are attributable to an unexpected fall into water.

The Royal Life Saving Society - Australia analysed 10 years of data on almost 600 drowning deaths in those aged 65 years and older. In most cases, fall-related drownings occurred at, or close to, home, highlighting the need for older Australians to be aware of all water bodies around them rather than just when they planned to go swimming or boating.

Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries in older people. Recreation and exercise at aquatic facilities can provide physical, mental and emotional health benefits, while also ensuring a safer environment for older people seeking low-impact activity.

Learn more about the falls research at the link below.

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Aqua Skills 55+

An elderly man and woman with goggles on their head in a pool

Royal Life Saving WA's Aqua Skills 55+ program is designed to teach those over the age of 55 vital water safety, rescue and CPR skills.

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A man holding a resuscitation manikin

First Aid Training - $109

Practical accredited first aid training that is flexible, enjoyable and engaging.

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