Lifesavers of another kind: Silver Salties offer sea change for seniors

IN THEIR ELEMENT: Silver Salties having a swell time at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast.
IN THEIR ELEMENT: Silver Salties having a swell time at Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast.

Retired teacher Rick Parsons, 73, has a simple philosophy when it comes to staying active: "You don't stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing."

And he lives by that belief week in, week out as a member of the Silver Salties, a program developed by Surf Lifesaving Australia to encourage physical activity and social connections among seniors.

Delivered by surf lifesaving clubs around the country, tiative is designed for men and women aged 65-plus but welcomes all adults regardless of age or experience.

It offers 20 programs that can be delivered near the park, clubhouse, beach, pool, or surf. Clubs include North Avoca in NSW, Anglesea in Victoria, Dicky Beach in Queensland, Penguin in Tasmania, Binningup in WA and Seacliff in SA,

LAST ONE IN'S A ROTTEN EGG: The Silver Salties greet the day with a bracing dip.

LAST ONE IN'S A ROTTEN EGG: The Silver Salties greet the day with a bracing dip.

Rick, a 30-year member of North Avoca who has lived on the NSW Central Coast for 45 years, leads the safe surf swim group twice a week.

His club offers two groups, both meeting at nearby Terrigal twice a week.

The first is led by his fellow North Avoca veteran Paul Johnston, who has notched up 50 years with the club.

It starts at 7am, with members taking to the water at The Haven, just around the point from Terrigal Beach.

"I sometimes swim with them if I get out of bed," Rick said with a laugh. "But mainly I'm with a group that meets at 10 o'clock over at Terrigal surf club.

"About 20 or 30 of us swim there on a semi-regular basis. We're mostly oldies, though there's a couple of slightly younger ones. Our group has people in their 70s and one bloke who's 83.

"I'd say about half have connections to either Terrigal or North Avoca, but a lot are friends of us who have started to swim.

"Some may become social members so they can have a shower and that, but not necessarily. It's not uncommon for someone to drop by and ask if they can join us. And of course they can."

Rick said his and Paul's main focus was simply to encourage people to swim, be active and "just give it a go".

People of any ability are welcome.

READY FOR ANYTHING: Silver Salties Graeme Owens, Allison Kable and Debbie Kable from Penguin SLSC in Tasmania..

READY FOR ANYTHING: Silver Salties Graeme Owens, Allison Kable and Debbie Kable from Penguin SLSC in Tasmania..

"There are some tortoises and some bloody good swimmers. I've known people who when they started couldn't go 20 metres. Now it's nothing for them to go over a kilometre."

Rick said one member is among the best ocean swimmers in his age group in the world.

"He's not in the slow lane; he's in the fast lane with the best kids."

People in the group connect in other ways too.

"In my group, a lot of them are golfers, some them have sea kayaks, others go on bike runs. They're people looking to do things, to be active, and to encourage others to be active with them.

"I think when people aren't encouraged to be active, that's when they do slow down. If we as a group do no more than get people off their bums and doing things, that's still a great result."



  • Walk and talk: Join the walk and talk group to do a coastal walk while talking with new and old friends.
  • History & horizons: Relax, enjoy the sea air and gaze at the horizon while learning about surf lifesaving, and Indigenous and local histories.
  • Yoga and mindfulness: Be mindful, stronger and more flexible using gentle, yoga poses and stretches.
  • Tai chi and meditation: Get fitter, have better balance and learn about meditation trying tai chi, an internal Chinese martial art practised for defence training and health benefits.

See video HERE


  • Wisdom and well-being: Learn from guest speakers about the importance of physical activity, social connections, health and well-being
  • Chair aerobics: Increase your range of movement, muscle tone, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, and social connections through movements to music from the comfort of a chair
  • Club volunteering: Share your interests and expertise e.g. typing, fixing things, mentoring younger people, being an official at events working working the barbecue, supporting nippers etc.
  • First aid: Learn basic first aid as well as resuscitation, to support others at home, at the beach or anywhere in between.

See video HERE


  • Social club: Join the club for fun physical activity on the beach - e.g. bocce, kites, cricket, sand darts, stone skimming, frisbee, followed by a social event - e.g. barbecue.
  • Beach Fitness: Get fitter and stronger on the beach including a circuit of moderate, strength, balance and flexibility exercises.
  • Beach sports: Participate in modified beach surf sports including fast running, relays, flags, wading activities and running-based games
  • Patrol: Learn about lifesaving including a tour of the patrol areas, beach safety knowledge skills, radio operator skills and more.

See video HERE


  • Pool swim club: Join this weekly group to increase your cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility.
  • Gentle pool exercises: Do low-impact exercises in the pool such as walking, stretching and modified aqua aerobics.
  • Swimming skills: Enter and exit the pool safely, floating techniques, how to move safely in the pool and how to do a range of swim strokes.
  • Pool Rescues: Do modified pool rescue techniques including line throw, tube rescue and brick carry.

See video HERE


  • Safe swim group: Join the weekly surf swimming club to increase your physical fitness and social connections.
  • Surf swimming: Be a more confident swimmer including learning how to read the surf, do entries and exits, body surf and swim in the ocean. Or just wade in the water.
  • Catching waves: Learn body surfing and body boarding, catching wave etiquette and general surf safety.
  • Surf rescues: Do a tube rescue and a board rescue (simulation/scenarios) in calm water and, where appropriate, in surf conditions.

See video HERE

This story You don't need gills to be in the water first appeared on The Senior.