Older Adults Research

Older Adults Research

Older adults (65+ years) are becoming increasingly more at risk of drowning in New Zealand, now comprising one-sixth (17%) of all fatal drowning in New Zealand, and one-fifth of Auckland’s fatal drowning toll for the five years to 2020 (WSNZ Drownbase, 2021), most (87%) in open water settings.

One reason cited for the increasing risk in drowning among older adults is the inaccurate assessment of their current water competence (Stanley & Moran, 2021). Previous studies suggest that many, young and old, tend to underestimate their risk of drowning as well as overestimate their capacity to mitigate that risk.

Research Project 

Water Safety New Zealand funded research enabled DPA to measure perceptions of water competencies and risks of drowning of older adults, and the aquatic recreation they participate, to inform the development of water safety education programmes for older adults.

Please see the report here: Older Adults Lit Review and Research Study

Stanley, T., & Moran, K. (2021). Perceptions of Water Competencies, Drowning Risk and Aquatic Participation among Older Adults. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 13(2), 6.

Recommendations from the research include:

• Testing water competency in a safe environment before entering open water
• Developing water competence in a safe environment
• Regular medical checkups, especially if aquatic activity hasn’t been as recent or regular as in the past
• Being open to change entrenched unsafe water safety attitudes

See the Adult Water Safety e-learning module for more ideas on how to stay safe in and around water environments.