Why are more older Australians drowning?

Almost 300 people drowned in Australia in the 12 months between July 2016 and June 2017.

Of the 291 deaths, 70 of them were people aged 65 and older? That’s nearly 25 per cent of the total.

Studies by the Royal Life Saving Society highlight the need to raise awareness among older Australians of the dangers of aquatic activities when combined with pre-existing medical conditions and, possibly, a reduced level of physical fitness.

The studies note that some older people have a poor understanding of current water safety techniques and preventative actions.

What the statistics say:

  • The 2016-17 figures represent a 27 per cent increase when measured against the 10-year average of 55 drowning deaths among older Australians. It was a 21 per cent increase on the 58 drowning deaths among older people reported in 2015/2016.
  • Overall drowning deaths in swimming pools in 2016/2017 were twice the 10-year average. The next most dangerous places were beaches and ocean/harbour locations, with 11 deaths recorded per place.
  • Boating accidents accounted for 17 per cent of deaths.  

Experts from the Royal Life Saving Society and James Cook University conducted a study in March 2017 and found that chronic illness in older Australians was a major contributor to drowning deaths. Across the study period, 69 per cent of older people who drowned had a pre-existing medical condition that may have contributed to their deaths.

So what do you need to know to ensure you stay safe around water?

The RLSS advises older people to test their skills in controlled environments such as public swimming pools before heading to open water locations such as beaches and rivers.

It also encourages older people to participate in Adult Learn to Swim or Royal Life Saving Grey Medallion programs so they can revise and update vital water, swimming and safety skills.

And it is essential that people aged 65 years and over undergo regular medical check-ups so they have a broader understanding of their ability in and around water.

Do you swim regularly? Would you swim at the beach? When was the last time you had a swimming lesson?

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Written by annapa

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