Swimming and Water Safety Among Older Australians

An older woman in the swimming pool

In the 2014-2015 financial year, 31% of drownings in Western Australia involved individuals aged 55 years and over. That’s 12 preventable deaths. The Royal Life Saving Society is committed to ensuring the safety of individual in this age group while preventing what is an avoidable tragedy.

Our research

We are currently in the process of designing a new health promotion strategy targeted at those aged over 55 in an effort to improve water safety knowledge and personal protection around water. To achieve this, we have combined a state-wide survey of older Australians while undertaking a number of focus groups to learn more about individual perspectives of water safety and what they believe would be effective.

Preliminary results

While our focus groups are continuing to be undertaken, key results from our survey are presented below.

  • Aquatic participation was generally low, with 38% of those surveyed participating less than once a year.
  • Swimming ability was self-described most frequently as being ‘fair’ or ‘good.’
  • Three quarters believed that there were enough aquatic opportunities available to Over 55’s. 
  • A quarter recognised that it was up to the individual to take advantage of programs on offer.
  • Almost half of respondents identified the ocean/beach as being the riskiest aquatic location, with dangerous rips/currents and sharks the key reasons for this answer.
  • Personal safety methods included being careful/assessing risks and swimming with others.
  • Acknowledging personal medical conditions was perceived as important to ensuring safety.
  • Helpful suggestions for future health promotion initiatives were recorded.


"Don't be over confident. If you are at the beach be between the lifesaving flags. You need to recognise you aren't as strong as you were when you were in your 20's."

(Survey participant, 75-84 female).


These results and data from focus groups will guide Royal Life Saving WA programs for Over 55’s and we are grateful for those who have so far participated in our study.



Grey Medallion

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

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

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