Grandma Leaps Into Lifeguard Duty To Keep Her Local Pool From Cutting Hours.

Gail Rodgers smiles in her lifeguard uniform and sunglasses.

Gail Rodgers is proving that you don’t have to be young to make a positive impact on your community. Across the United States, pools have been cutting back hours or closing entirely due to a shortage in lifeguards. When that almost happened at Montgomery Towne Condominiums in Cincinnati, Ohio, 66-year-old Gail stepped up.

The retired IT consultant is both a resident and a board president of the condominiums. So when she heard that, soon, the pool would have to close on certain days, she chose to give it a shot. She had been a lifeguard before, after all. But that was over 50 years ago, and Gail quickly learned how much things have changed since then.

“It’s hugely different,” Gail said. “The lifeguard back then would sit in the chair and might blow the whistle occasionally to tell you to stop running or so. They had no props, no flotation device, all they had was a whistle. So they were really more police than anything else.”

The physical exam required to become a certified lifeguard is no joke. According to Jeff Blume, president of the Cincinnati Pool Management, it includes a 300-yard swim (about 12 laps in a traditional pool), treading in the water for a specific time, and grabbing a brick off the bottom of a pool.

Still, even knowing these requirements didn’t stop Gail.

“I went and got the precertification just to make sure that I could pass the physical test first, which I found out I could, so I was happy about that, and then I went through the full training,” she explained.

Gail officially started duty as a part-time lifeguard on May 27, and she’s been loving it so far. She’ll likely take on more shifts when school is back in session, but for now, she’s able to have quite a flexible schedule. Plus, she’s loving getting to know her neighbors.

“I have a dog so I walk the neighborhood so I know a lot of people with dogs but I don’t know a lot of young couples with kids,” she said, “So I’m getting to know them, I’m getting to know all the kids and I think maybe the kids will respond to me as a lifeguard more so because I am older.”

Gail isn’t the only one happy she’s working there.

“It’s a treat, it’s wonderful,” Jeff said. “We love her enthusiasm, we’re happy she’s here. She brings a new perspective to the lifeguarding world.”

Although Gail has only had to blow her whistle at kids for diving where they shouldn’t be, something they’ve responded well to, she’s certainly ready should someone need help.

“It’s been fun watching the kids playing with their parents and people enjoying the nice weather in the pool,” she said. “It’s been a lot better and more pleasant than I expected it to be.”

Now, Gail hopes her experience will give others the courage they need to give lifeguarding a chance.

“I think there’s maybe a stigma or a fear of ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘That’s not for me. That’s for the young kids,’ or something like that,” Gail said. “So, there’s a lot to overcome … [but] if people wanted to do it, we could help them with the skills and give them a little bit more of a boost before they actually take the class, kind of like a pre-course. If people realize that that was an option, I think that they might not look at the skills test as such a steep mountain to overcome.”

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