Seniors excited to be back in the water thanks to pool lift installed at Yarmouth YMCA

Many helping hands got this project off the ground

Published on May 10, 2017

Meadows resident Norma Singer, 87, enjoys some time in the pool at the Yarmouth YMCA, aided by Heather Lowe, occupational therapist at The Meadows. A pool lift is helping seniors like Singer get back into the water.

© Tina Comeau

YARMOUTH, N.S. – For 87-year-old Norma Singer, it was her first time back in the water in about 15 years. For 93-year-old Katherine Shaughnessy, she says she may finally get around to learning how to swim.

A pool lift installed at the Yarmouth YMCA uses a sling to help transition people into the water.

Both women, residents of The Meadows long-term seniors care facility in Yarmouth, are excited to be experiencing something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. And it wouldn’t be possible without the purchase and installation of pool lift at the Yarmouth YMCA, a project initiated and worked on by local staff of the Nova Scotia Health Authority and local long-term seniors care facilities.

“It was great fun. It was an experience, especially since I’m 93,” says Shaughnessy about her first time in the water. “The experience was wonderful, just to be in the water. Everybody was so kind and helpful. I loved it.”

The senior says it’s almost hard to put into words how meaningful the experience was.

“It’s really life giving. It’s just such a treat to do something like that and be a part of it,” she says. “I had one of those floaters on, but I will try to learn to swim.”

93-year-old Katherine Shaughnessy of The Meadows, gets to enjoy some time in the pool at the Yarmouth YMCA.

Kimberly Lombard is an occupational therapist at Roseway Hospital in Shelburne. She says the pool lift project is one that took years to get from idea to reality.

“It first started when some individuals received a couple of referrals from people who wanted to go swimming and had no way to access that. Quickly it became a lot bigger than that,” Lombard says. Those involved in this project had to first determine where to locate the pool lift. It was decided the YCMA in Yarmouth would be the best option. Lombard says the YMCA operates a year-round, indoor pool and the project works well with the Y's mission and values. "I approached them and they agreed that if we could find the funds they would love to have this piece of equipment at their pool," Lombard says.

The lift cost several thousand dollars. Lombard says a lot of financial partners –municipalities, grants, other donors, etc. – helped to raise the funds.

Norma Singer, 87, getting ready to go with a swim with Heather Lowe, occupational therapist and Sharisse d'Entremont, rehab assistant from the Meadows.
Tina Comeau

The manual lift gives ability to transfer individuals in and out of the pool who otherwise, due to physical and health limitations, wouldn’t be able to go into a pool on their own. “It’s things everybody else kind of takes for granted,” says Lombard. “With this we’re getting people in the water. A lot of people really enjoy it. It’s good exercise. Some people can move their limbs better in the water.”

Lynn LeBlanc, recreation manager at The Meadows, says they’re hoping to see usage of the pool lift expand to many of the seniors’ homes, while also benefiting the community.

“We thought we’d maybe invite some residents to come watch some time just to see what it’s like,” she says. “To help get rid of some of that fear they may have of getting in a lift and being lowered into the water.”

87-year-old Meadows resident Norma Singer on the day she went for her third swim in the YMCA pool, pictured with Lynn LeBlanc, recreation manager at The Meadows, Heather Lowe, occupational therapist and Sharisse d’Entremont, rehab assistant.
Tina Comeau

Norma Singer was never afraid to go into the water, just excited. In her younger days she used to sail a lot, and would spend winter holidays in Florida where they’d always be swimming.

“I love swimming,” she says. “It relaxes me. I feel great in the pool.”

Prior to her third visit to the pool, Singer even bought herself a fancier bathing cap through Amazon.

“It’s exciting for us to watch them get in the water again,” LeBlanc says, joking with Singer, “Scuba gear may be next. Snorkeling.”