Despite our beaches being temporarily closed in many locations across Australia, now is a great opportunity to educate ourselves on water safety, and ways to ensure we stay safe in our public waters. A concerning factor from Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) is that Senior Australians have an increased risk of drowning.
Many Australians lose their life each year to drownings. In 2018/2019 a staggering 57% of beach related drownings in Queensland alone, occurred in the age group of 50 and over. Of these, 7 victims were aged between 50 – 59, 3 aged between 60 – 69 and 2 aged between 70 – 79. The average age of drowning death victims in 2018/2019 was 50.4 years, up from 40.3 years in 2017/2018.
One of the greatest reasons for the rise in this age demographic is due to the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, now moving into their senior years, without having been previously educated to the full extent of aquatic safety that we are at liberty to receive now.
In a bid to further prevent, and hopefully reduce, the number of drownings in this age demographic, SLSQ are promoting the following guidelines:
- Know your limitations – Stay within the depth of water you are comfortable with and keep track of your fitness levels. Its important to know you have the physical fitness to be able to maintain safety in the position that you are in.
- Be aware of any medical conditions – Some medical conditions, especially those that require medication, can affect your abilities in the water. Be conscious of this and mindful when entering into any aquatic environment.
- Don’t drink and swim! – Alcohol and water activities DO NOT MIX! Stay away from water related activities if alcohol, drugs or heavy medications have been consumed.
- Always boat or swim with a friend – It is never a good idea to enter into any aquatic activity without having another person close by in case of a medical or aquatic emergency.
- Only swim between the flags – Lifeguards and Lifesavers mark the safest place to swim at the beach with the red and yellow flags. Swimming in between the red and yellow ensures a much greater chance that you will be visible should you get into trouble. Rip currents can be quite hard to spot and can often lead to drowning as people panic and try to swim against them. If you find yourself caught in a ‘Rip Current’ be sure to remain calm and to signal for help. Never try to swim against a rip! If you are a strong swimmer you can escape the rip by swimming to the right or left (parallel to the shore) then use the waves to bring you back in. Learn more about rips by watching this video by Surf Life Saving Australia – How to spot a rip current.
- Learn Lifesaving skills – Being empowered with the skills to handle yourself in aquatic emergencies is fundamental in drowning prevention. Surf Lifesaving Queensland have a number of courses, information on Rip Currents etc and resources you can access.
Author: Janene Holland, Community Awareness Coordinator – Sunshine Coast Surf Life Saving Queensland.