Lifeguarding isn’t just for the young anymore

Posted On July 13, 2018

They were the cool kids, the kids we aspired to be. They sat atop their chair, with their mirrored sunglasses and tan skin, twirling a whistle around their finger and reminding us, once again, to stop running and stop hanging on the rope by the diving well.

One day, we told ourselves, we’ll be lifeguards too.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the pool for today’s generation of would-be lifeguards. According to the Washington Post, you might be just as likely to see a Baby Boomer sitting atop the chair at your neighborhood pool this summer as a member of iGen. With unemployment at historic lows, city recreation departments and private pools in many places are finding it tougher to find enough teens looking to work as lifeguards and have begun recruiting older employees for those jobs.

“We’re starting to think outside the box: baby boomers, seniors, retired lawyers and accountants,” B.J. Fisher of the American Lifeguard Association told the Post.

While lifeguarding may not be seen as the plum job it was during the heyday of Baywatch, the problem isn’t so much that pools are losing teenage employees to other jobs. It’s that jobs are losing them altogether.

The percentage of teens in the labor force has plunged in the last 18 years, dropping from about 50 percent in 2000 to about 35 percent today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Summers that used to mean working a job and saving up for a car or a trip or just walking-around money now mean keeping up with a host of extracurricular activities for many of today’s teens. If they’re athletes, they have summer workouts – there are very few sports anymore that can be played at a competitive level without working at them year-round. If they’re active in band or drama, they have practice and rehearsals. There are dance recitals, Scouting camps, college campus tours, engineering camps, Vacation Bible School.

All this leaves less time for teens to work a job, and creates scheduling issues if they do try to work one. All of which begs a question: Are our kids missing out on the valuable lessons of the working world because we already have them too busy?

While so many high school students are overloaded with extracurricular obligations, many college students are looking for more lucrative summer employment options to offset mounting student loans.

As boomers retire, meanwhile, some are looking for part-time gigs that will keep them active. For those who are lifelong swimmers, don’t mind a little physical exertion and enjoy being outdoors, lifeguarding can be an attractive option, even with the certification process to complete.

So careful before you poor-mouth the “kid” watching over your kids at the pool this summer. You might be disrespecting an elder.

Categories: Baby Boomers, Blog, Parenting, Work, Workplace