Supplement Feature - February 2012
Find a printable version here

Dive in for Healthier Bodies & Minds

Wellness Programming for Aquatic Facilities

By Julie Knudson

Targeting Seniors

Lauren Woodcock, program supervisor at Christiansburg, said accommodating the varying range of abilities among senior clients is important to keep them involved, and classes targeting individuals with arthritis or a limited range of motion take advantage of their facility's warm-water pool.

"The warm-water pool will help them move a little bit easier, and they stay warmer while they're exercising so they don't get cold," Woodcock said. "Then we have our other seniors who can do a little bit more, and they go with the leisure pool. They can still work on flexibility, and then they can work on strength a little bit in there as well." She said the classes contribute to seniors' fitness while minimizing joint stress.

The popularity and diversity of clients taking the senior-focused water fitness classes at M-NCPPC is a small taste of older Americans' drive to maintain their health as they age. "Our water fitness programs for seniors are heavily populated by minority participants, and that might just be reflective of how diverse our county is," Eggleston said.

She added that it's often difficult to engage adults in water activities, but said, "I think as you grow older your body starts to change, and your abilities begin to change." Sometimes it takes a doctor's recommendation to get people in the pool, but Eggleston believes it ultimately helps "break the fear barrier for a lot of seniors because they know that this type of activity is good for their bones and their cardiovascular health. And it's a lot easier for them to participate in than actually jumping around or moving too quickly in a land fitness class."

Centers interested in launching senior programs don't have to go it alone, Lachocki said. "If you're looking at doing therapy and rehabilitation, there's the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute. If you're interested in doing exercise, there's the Aquatic Exercise Association. Those organizations are there to support those types of programs." He stressed the importance of working with an aquatics instructor certified to work in the area you're implementing, rather than "just taking a person and saying 'Now go teach this water class.'"

Support for Fearful Swimmers

Estimates for the number of Americans afraid of being in or near water range from one in 10 to more than four in 10, but even at the low end of the scale that means about 31 million people suffer from some form of water phobia.

Jeff Krieger, M.S., founder and director of the S.O.A.P. (Strategies for Overcoming Aquatic Phobias) Program, based in Beacon, N.Y., said fearful swimmers may never have been exposed to water, while some have had traumatic experiences in or around water, and others have no idea why their fear of water is exaggerated.

Regardless of the underlying reasons, Krieger said fearful swimmers are "a diverse group that crosses all boundaries, and they're not usually going out and looking for a program like mine—they kind of have to bump into it."

Though fearful swimmers come in all ages, Krieger said few people between their late teens and early 50s seek out learn-to-swim programs, and he surmises those folks "are so busy with their careers, their lives and raising children, that the fear lays dormant or they can manipulate their lives to avoid water."