Seniors are more active than ever.

By Marisa Spyker
July 27, 2018
Denise Taylor/Getty Images

Of all of the careers that have been portrayed in film, there’s one, perhaps in particular, that’s remained rather consistent in its stereotype: the lifeguard. Think young and chiseled, as much there to save lives as they are for the Baywatch-esque slow-mo camera pans.

Statistically, there’s a reason for this: Lifeguarding positions have always typically been held by tanned teens and young adults looking to make some extra cash on their summer breaks.

But there’s a big shift happening. Fewer teens are seeking jobs than ever before, with just 35 percent of 16 to 19 year-olds currently working (compared to 52 percent in 1998, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Meanwhile, many of the nation’s 150,000 lifeguarding jobs are sitting empty.

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So who’s filling in the gaps? Senior citizens, it appears. Across the country, cities, pools, and beach clubs are expanding their searches, raising wages, and (in some cases) lowering physical requirements to attract more applicants of all ages. Some city officials are even placing ads in employee retirement guides and utility bills, hoping to reach a new demographic of active seniors who aren’t looking as much to retire as they are to transition.

As a result, more and more seniors are stepping up to the lifeguard chair. Some have military backgrounds while others are reigniting their love for the summer job they once held decades ago. The job is physically challenging, of course; applicants must swim 300 yards continuously to be able to even pass the American Lifeguard Association certification course.

“It’s very tiring when I finally come home at night,” 63-year-old lifeguard Bill Bower told the Washington Post. “But I’m the best shape I’ve been in in decades.”

As for the employers, one 70-year-old lifeguard from Austin said managers have told her they prefer older employees because they tend to be reliable. And also—major bonus—they’re not afraid to leave their cell phones at home.

If spending your Golden years saving lives under the sun isn’t the perfect way to retire, we don’t know what is.