Age a factor in many drownings
Older men overconfident
A disproportionate number of older WA men are drowning during water sports because they are overconfident in their abilities and do not realise their fitness is not what it used to be, according to the Royal Life Saving Society.
New figures, released by the organisation today as part of a 10-year study into drownings of over 49-year-olds, revealed 78 per cent of older drowning victims were men, compared with 75 per cent nationally. One-third of those involved water activities, including kayaking, canoeing and boating.
From 2002 to 2012, 123 West Australians aged 50 and over drowned, part of 1072 drownings across Australia.
The organisation has also expressed alarm at the amount of anecdotal evidence of older people drinking alcohol before going in the water.
RLSS WA research manager Lauren Nimmo said many of those who drowned in WA were men who returned to the water as part of a post-retirement health kick after a long break from sport or exercise.
“We see a huge amount of males of retirement age who have more leisure time to take up water activities, ” Ms Nimmo said. “They’re recommended by doctors to take part in more sport. They may overestimate their water abilities and may have been able to do things that they cannot now.”
Ms Nimmo said there also appeared to be many incidences of older adults drinking during water activities and mixing alcohol with prescribed medications before going in the water.
“Alcohol is largely seen as an issue in younger adults but there’s nothing focusing on older age groups, ” she said. “It is prominent in these statistics.
“We would hope this is an age group that would be more inclined to act responsibly around water and avoid behaviours that can increase their risk of drowning.”
About 30 per cent of the WA drownings recorded in the statistics were in oceans and harbours. Ms Nimmo said regional areas also appeared to be hotspots for drownings, particularly among tourists who were not used to the local conditions.
Ms Nimmo said older people were urged to keep their first-aid skills up to date, make sure they never took part in water activities alone and know their limitations.
© The West Australian