Seniors take jobs as lifeguards as YMCA struggles to find workers

Michael Shields on guard at the YMCA (FOX 9)

During the summer, it's typical to see a teen or college student working a summer job as a lifeguard, sitting in a tall chair at your pool or beach. However, as the YMCA struggles to find workers, retired seniors are showing up to fill shifts.

Michael Shields says he went from Baywatch to graywatch and is one of many seniors giving lifeguards a new look.

"A lot of the grandparents they’ll ask me well what am I doing here?" said Michael Shields.

Shields is actually back to life guarding at the West St. Paul pool for a second time, after first guarding here in 1977 -- a time when the job came with a whistle and a bottle of suntan lotion.

Today, like all the other lifeguards, he’s trained and ready to jump in any time. While he may not have a lot in common with his teenage co-workers. They have fun and all share a common goal to keep swimmers safe.

"We all have the same education," said Shields. "We all have to pass the same American Red Cross course, we have to take the same monthly in-service training through the YMCA so we sort of build respect for each other."

Shields is one of about 50 Senior "Y" lifeguards, most of whom signed up after retiring from their careers during the pandemic. They all can swim 300 yards and can carry out a rescue if need be.

"They can do everything the youngsters can do, and they have life experience," said Shannon Kinstler with YMCA Aquatics. "So they’re usually very kind and gentle."

Whether you're Shields age or 15 years old there are plenty of lifeguard positions open. Pay starts at $15 an hour at least and then you get a $2 raise after working twenty hours so if you like the sun and like to swim this could be the job for you.