June 25, 2019

Lifeguards Wanted: Seniors Encouraged to Apply


Retirement can hopefully be a time of relaxation, enjoying hobbies and exploring some long-anticipated travel destinations. You may be surprised to learn it can also be a good time to become a lifeguard.

As community aquatic centers encounter difficulties staffing lifeguard shifts, they are learning the advantages of recruiting lifeguards of older ages. And for retired and semi-retired adults, lifeguard jobs can be a flexible way to earn extra income and find more time for fitness.

Dianne Lahey, Aquatics Supervisor at UW Health’s Sports Medicine Fitness Center, said she’s seen a shift toward hiring older lifeguards in her 20+ years working as an aquatic professional. Lahey is currently responsible for staffing two UW Health pools and filling lifeguard shifts of more than 96 hours a week. While high school and college students still make a large percentage of her lifeguard staff, she said it can be difficult filling all shifts, especially during school breaks and semester transition periods.

“A lot of adults, the first thing they think is, ‘Oh I’m not in shape, I can’t do that,’” Lahey said. “I would say two things to that. One, I’ve seen adults doing the lifeguard class who end up being the fastest in the class. And also, you don’t have to be the fastest swimmer,” she said. “You have to be able to swim and be comfortable. The rest you can learn and practice.”

Red Cross Lifeguard certification requires the ability to swim a continuous 300 yards in front crawl, breast stroke or a combination of both. Lifeguards must be able to tread water for two minutes with legs only, and pass a timed event where they swim 20 yards, pick up a brick from underwater, and return to the starting point within one minute and forty seconds. Modern safety standards also now allow some modifications for physical limitations or disability, and safety tools such as rescue tubes help make water rescue safer and easier on the guard.

Lifeguarding is still an opportunity for high school students and college students to find flexible, part-time work that can fit around a busy school schedule. For a student interested in working in the medical field, lifeguarding at a UW Health Aquatic Center can provide an introduction to learning medical skills. Safety training, HIPAA training, patient relations and privacy training are all provided to lifeguards.

Later this summer, the UW Health Sports Medicine Fitness Center will host a swim lesson class specifically for teenagers ages 13 and over. The “Teen learn to swim” lessons will help teenagers who may not have had access to learning to swim gain skills and confidence in the water. The class is an opportunity for these teenagers to think about lifeguarding as an option for them as well, Lahey said. Wisconsin state law now allows teenagers as young as 15 to earn lifeguard certification.

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