Hopes free pool entry will spur over-80s to stay active

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In the swim. . . Gore woman Dianne Rankin has been swimming to keep fit for about 30 years and welcomes the move by the Gore District Council to give 80-year-olds like herself free access to the Gore Aquatic Centre. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Free use of the Gore Aquatic Centre for those aged over 80 is “marvellous”, long-time swimmer Dianne Rankin says.

Last week Gore District Council endorsed a proposal to provide free entry and aquafit classes for its more senior residents, one of the few councils in the country to do so.

At present, senior swimmers aged 60 years and over pay $4.50 to enter the pool.

“I just hope it encourages a lot more people in that age group to come,” Mrs Rankin (80) said.

The staff at the pool made everyone feel welcome, she said.

“It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, it’s good for you.”

Apart from the exercise the swimming was good for a person’s mental wellbeing.

“You get here and you forget about everything else when you are in the water.”

She started swimming at the Mataura pool about 30 years after a cancer operation.

She was advised to “try and keep fit”.

In those days when people swam lengths it was recorded and at the end of the season they were given a certificate.

“It was just what I needed at the time.

“I needed a challenge and I was totally hooked .. I’ve been swimming ever since.”

It was probably due to the swimming that “I’m here today,” she said.

Later she became a receptionist and a lifeguard at the Gore pool.

She used to swim three times a week but now swam weekly.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said the offer was another step towards ensuring Gore was age-friendly and met the aims of its Ready for Living programme.

“Given we have an ageing demographic, it’s important we make the district an attractive place for people to live and remain active after they retire.”

Ready for Living co-ordinator Kylie Aitken said it was great this opportunity was now available given the high number of over-80s in the Gore district.

“Swimming has many positive benefits for health, such as reducing social isolation and loneliness among older people, which is a growing concern.”

It is unknown exactly how many people aged over 80 use the pool on a casual basis each year as senior swimmers are classified as 60 years and over. However, there are 20 over 80 with annual memberships.

Gore Aquatic Centre manager Martin McKereth said the initiative was exciting.

“It’s a great way to say thank you and give back to people for the time they have put into our community.

“For those in retirement, it’s a place to catch up, work out or relax in the spa.”