The Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club (SSLSC) is supporting lifelong physical activity through its Silver Salties initiative.

Club President Jacinta Day spoke about how the program is at the heart of the community and the benefits it’s providing to both the participants and the club.

What is the strategy?

Silver Salties is a community program that provides opportunities for people over the age of 65 to be actively involved in the club as well as group activities including walks, exercise programs, swimming, bus trips, first aid training and presentations by club members.

The Silver Salties group is an initiative of Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) that is funded by Sport Australia to increase activity and participation for Australians, 65 years and older. This is an opportunity for participants to engage with their local community and become part of the local surf life saving club.

How did this idea come about?

In 2019 during communications with Surf Life Saving Australia, the program idea was floated to the club. SLSA received a Move It AUS grant from Sport Australia to pilot the program with clubs across Australia. SSLSC was the first club in Australia to roll out the program remain the only club in South Australia with a Silver Salties Program.

Who championed this initiative?

Two members became the program leaders: Terry Keeffe and Terry Crabb. Keeffe and Crabb are still the leaders of the program today and are seeing a healthy growth in participant numbers. The Program Leaders are currently active members within the club (Terry Keeffe is a Life Member) and their enthusiasm and support has been key to the positive implementation of the program. Club support has been integral to developing the program and ensuring we continue to meet the SLSA requirements and program goals.

The initiative is funded by a seed grant from SLSA, and the funds are used by the Silver Salties to ensure they can develop the activities and promote the opportunities for the participants.

At Seacliff the Silver Salties have used the funding to invest in activities as well as promoting the activity by rewarding participation with Silver Salties merchandise.

What issues will the program address?

The program has been designed to increase activity and movement for the participants as well as increase their social networks and engagement with local clubs and community. Getting people aged 65+ active and involved in local community activities provides support and opportunities they may not be aware of.

What barriers did you come across in implementing this idea?

Advertising was the only challenge based on the target demographic. Word of mouth travels very well through the retirees’ social clubs which proved to be the best method. Even now, though the program is not advertised, the number of participants is constantly growing.

What has been the reaction (from club members and broader)?

Everyone has loved the program. The group manages the program themselves and has positively affected life members returning to the club because there is once again a way for them to participate that doesn’t involve rigorous activity. More than half the Silver Salties members are new to the Club.

The reaction from the club has been positive overall, with increased participation and membership and diversity within the club, tapping into another demographic of volunteers who can assist in activities that are appropriate and support club activities.

Do you think this initiative could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports?

Yes, it can easily be rolled out by Surf Life Saving Clubs and SLSA will support you completely.

Even a non-surf club could benefit from a similar program. For example, a group of people taking their kids to footy training don’t have to sit and watch training, they could go for a group walk or activity.

What are the foreseeable challenges to doing that?

The biggest challenge will be finding someone to run the activities. Most clubs will have dedicated members that are interested in participating at the club and this will be their way to do it. Find those members who will run the program and support them. From a club perspective, the Silver Salties are managing themselves and doing a great job.

Any advice for other clubs seeking to implement this?

Just give it a go. Start small and you’ll watch the program grow. Understand what is working, where the program should go and continue to build in that direction.

Is there a next step/are you looking to grow this further?

The number of participants has grown incredibly in the two years of the program. With 40 members registered, the group want to maintain the close-knit nature of the Silver Salties regardless of the group size. Not every member attends every activity as they sometimes will be travelling or seeing the grandkids, which provides balance for attendance sizes. A second group could be introduced on a different day or with different activities to accommodate all the interest of potential members. There is a lot of planning and consideration required before the roll out of a second group will be completed.

Has this supported increase in members/volunteers/revenue?

The Silver Salties are seeing huge social benefits which is also supporting the club financially. Every Thursday night the Silver Salties are getting together for dinner at the club and bringing money in over the bar. At a recent SSLSC hosted junior competition the Silver Salties volunteered to help run a barbeque which raised funds for the club. SSLSC has also offered discount associate memberships to Silver Salties.

Is there anything you would do differently?

No, the program is great and the support from Surf Life Saving Australia helped immensely to get the program up and running. A similar (if not the exact same) method will be used should a second group be launched in the future.