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One-third of all drownings in Australia are aged over 55

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Minister for Ageing


9 April 2008 JE 08/30

One-third of all drownings in Australia are aged over 55

About 100 people aged 55 or more die by drowning each year in Australia, including about 60 from accidental drowning, according to a new study on aquatic-related injuries announced today by the Australian Government Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot.

Launching a Grey Medallion swimming program for people over 55, Mrs Elliot said the new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Injury Surveillance Unit has found that another 75 people are admitted to hospital each year after a near-drowning incident.

“A further 534 older people, on average, are admitted to hospital each year for injuries that occur while they are involved in aquatic activities, including boating and fishing,” Mrs Elliot said.

“Falls account for 40 per cent of all injuries at places involving water. Sixty-seven per cent of injuries at swimming centres and 57 per cent of injuries at beaches were due to falls.”

Mrs Elliot was at the North Sydney Swimming Pool, accompanied by Olympic swimming legend John Konrads, today to launch the new Grey Medallion program which is being funded by the Australian Government and conducted by the Royal Life Saving Society Australia.

“The program is designed to enable older people to swim and take part in other water-based activities with greater confidence and safety,” Mrs Elliot said.

“The medallion program is conducted in a relaxed environment more suited to older people than the Bronze Medallion for young people. It would teach older people to swim more safely while improving their fitness.

“Swimming or aquatic exercise can be a relaxing and pleasant form of activity for many older people, improving their mobility, flexibility and muscle strength.

“Being physically active is also important to maintaining good health and wellbeing, and is a key means of preventing accidental falls which are a major problem for older Australians.”

Mrs Elliot said the Grey Medallion program is a really welcome addition to Royal Life Saving’s string of programs to give Australians water safety skills.

“For older people, being safe around the water is not just a matter of avoiding accidental drowning but of avoiding a slip or fall on a wet surface.

“For both these reasons, older people will benefit from aquatic exercise and training to make them fitter.”

Mrs Elliot said the Department of Health and Ageing provided funding for the Grey Medallion program through the National Falls Prevention in Older People Initiative. The society has also received funding from the National Injury Prevention Program to implement health-related elements of the National Water Safety Plan 2004-07.

For more information, contact Mrs Elliot's office on (02) 6277 7280