Stamford pool facilities help adults face water fears

August 22, 2018

Written by Erin Kayata

STAMFORD — Summer pool visits can be filled with mixed emotions for someone who doesn’t know how to swim.

But the water-phobic person at the local pool may not be one of the children with plastic water wings on their upper arms. It could be the adult lounging on a chair who never learned to swim.

The Center for Disease Control reports that while drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, four out of five people who drown each year are over the age of 14. Drowning is the fifth-leading cause of accidental death across all age groups, according to the CDC.

Even more alarming, the American Red Cross reported in 2014 about half of all Americans can’t swim, including adults.

“There are a lot of adults who can’t swim who are embarrassed to say they can’t swim,” said Jamie Barone, aquatics director at Chelsea Piers. “It’s far more common than anyone realizes. People are embarrassed and don’t want to say this is something I can’t do.”

While these adults may not be diving into the deep end, Stamford Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Palmer says he sees many novice swimmers who should not be out on boats. He said they don’t realize the risk of ending up in the water until an accident occurs.

While boating incidents typically rise during the summer, Palmer said there has been a particularly higher number of accidents this year.

“There’s a no doubt we see a significant increase in water-related emergencies in the summer,” Palmer said. “There’s a lot more access people have to waterways we would in other times of year.”

Chelsea Piers, as well other Stamford facilities such as the Jewish Community Center, have been trying to help by offering various adult swim lessons.

Alex Tkachuk, aquatics director at the JCC, said most of the about 25 adults who take swim lessons at the Newfield facility prefer private instruction instead of group sessions.

At the JCC, adults learn to swim using flippers and kickboards to get comfortable with the water. Tkachuk said the water is about 4 feet deep, but most adults are more apprehensive than children.

“When they’re an adult, they get way too smart for their own good so they have all sorts of fears,” Tkachuk said. “They have to get comfortable first. They need to learn how to put their faces under, they need to learn how to float. If they learn that, we go to the next step.”

Chelsea Piers has two warm, shallow pools and a moveable floor that lowers in 6-inch increments to help skittish adults ease into the water. Barone also recommends adults learning to swim should stand in waist-deep water at least three times a week.

“Coming once a week is not enough,” Barone said. “Overcoming fear takes exposure more frequently.”

Learn about Chelsea Piers Aquatics Programs: CONNECTICUT NEW YORK