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LETTER: Lifeguard shortage hurting seniors the most

Swimmer questions why leisure centre ousts older clients when short staffed
Maple Ridge Leisure Centre’s aquatic team are having to close some of the pool facilities when there aren’t enough staff, drawing criticism from some. (The News files)

Dear Editor,

Seniors come last.

Seniors who are the main participants of the Water Wellness classes are being let down by the management at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.

The Water Wellness classes taught in the warmer teach pool are the first to be moved when another pool closes or during lifeguard shortages.

Lifeguards pulled to become swim instructors cause pool closures.

At noon on Feb. 17, the seniors taking the wellness class were told to vacate the teach pool for four children taking a lesson that should have been in the leisure pool, which was closed due to a hygiene incident.

Many of the 30-40 people who take the wellness class (mostly seniors, many who suffer with arthritis and need the warmer water) have given up.

Notices are never given when the class will be moved, and complaints have caused the senior officials to not even advertise when the teach pool is open.

On Feb. 10, the teach pool closed at noon, as a lifeguard was pulled to be a swim instructor for a few toddlers in the leisure pool. The wellness class was moved to the leisure pool, and a third of the seniors left, finding the water too cold.

On Feb. 3, I pleaded to open the closed teach pool, as there was a 92nd birthday celebration for one of the regular participants. By some miracle, the teach pool re-opened.

On Jan. 16, the Water Wellness instructor pleaded on behalf of the seniors, to keep the lesson in the teach pool. Three lifeguards gave up their break to open it for the 30 participants, even though the guards are apparently not allowed to collect overtime.

LAST SUMMER: Maple Ridge Leisure Centre cancels over a dozen drop-in classes in one week

The problem with retaining lifeguards seems to be worse in Maple Ridge, with parents driving younger lifeguards to other communities to work. Even some who teach lessons here, refuse to guard.

Others will allegedly say “no” to work, because they don’t want to have to teach a lesson, and then guard while they are wet. Even though there are more guards hired than during the two years of COVID, there are more closures, and more guards refusing work.

Some say they will not guard in Maple Ridge because of the way hours are given, with only a few senior guards being able to pick their schedule. Others find higher wages elsewhere or complained about having to take too many extra shifts.

A Maple Ridge lifeguard working in Port Coquitlam told me she worked there because it felt like a family.

Many of the guards here have no idea what is going on, even though they are the frontline workers to whom the public ask questions.

From this observer’s perspective, there’s a lack of communication at the leisure centre. The people in charge aren’t listening to their employees and clients.

Many people are affected by the closures at Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, but seniors are usually not on social media and have no one to speak for them.

LAST SPRING: Maple Ridge pool, gyms plagued by unscheduled closures

H. Homer, Maple Ridge


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