Horsley resident Hetty Elliott didn’t get any swimming awards as a young girl but at 64, she’s happy to be training for her Grey Medallion.
Mrs Elliott was one of a group of enthusiastic participants who took to the water at Beaton Park Leisure Centre yesterday at the launch of a new water safety program co-ordinated by Wollongong City Council.
The eight-week pilot program is aimed at those aged 55-plus and is focused on teaching water safety and lifesaving skills.
‘‘I’ve never had any formal training – I taught myself to swim – so I jumped at the chance to take part in this program,’’ Mrs Elliott said.
‘‘We have a boat and often go out with the family so I thought it was important to get some up-to-date safety information and learn some personal survival skills.’’
Council’s acting aquatic services manager, Matt Neill, said it was the first time the council had run the Royal Life Saving course and, if successful, it would expand the program in 2014.
‘‘Royal Life Saving developed the course to address the need for programs that specifically target older Australians,’’ he said.
‘‘It covers a range of water safety knowledge including first aid and CPR awareness training as well as water safety at beaches, pools, rivers and dams.
‘‘The practical component includes water familiarisation and basic rescue skills. The course is very flexible and caters for individual participants – who may range from people with very basic or no skills to those who just want to refresh their skills.’’
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the initiative was important, especially in light of the findings of the recent Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report for 2013, which showed the over-55s accounted for 39per cent of all drowning deaths.
‘‘Hopefully, courses like this will help reduce these statistics,’’ he said.
‘‘Personally, I’ve had no formalised swimming training since I got my bronze medallion in high school, and I know there’d be a lot of people in the same situation. This is like a refresher course.’’
Cr Bradbery said with older Australians increasingly being called on to care for grandchildren, it was vital their safety skills were up to date.
‘‘Many grandparents are responsible for looking after their grandchildren so it’s important to have basic rescue or resuscitation skills,’’ he said.
‘‘We all know how quickly a child can get into trouble in the water.’’
The Grey Medallion program kicked off this week and runs until December 10. There’s still a limited number of spots available for late enrolments. Contact 42277755.