27-04-2023 Skills & Tips

Key points you should take into account when designing public pools for seniors

As the population ages and the benefits of swimming are more widely recognized, the stage is set for rapid growth in pools for the elderly.

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As the population ages and the benefits of swimming are more widely recognized, the stage is set for rapid growth in pools for the elderly. To meet their needs, public pools need to anticipate this trend and include some crucial design factors.

Define seniors’ needs in public pools

New ideas for access to pools, for sanitary facilities, lockers and rest rooms, the way seniors navigate around pools is just as important as the pools themselves. During Covid-19, it was vital to reorganize corridors to ensure the protection of users and now the sector needs to rethink them to protect the elderly.

Car parks

Just like for the handicapped, car parks for seniors must be close to entrances, sheltered from bad weather and easily accessible, with a ramp for wheel chairs and wheeled walkers.

Changing rooms, showers and sanitary facilities

These spaces must be sufficiently roomy to make it possible for an elderly person to sit down in total safety to change or wash, with enough space for an aid, and be fitted with an alarm system to summon help from pool staff. Sanitary facilities must be wide enough for wheel chairs and walkers and be fitted with handrails. Ideally door and wall angles should be rounded to prevent an accumulation of accidents following falls.


The older we get, the more light we need to see our surroundings clearly. Although soft lighting can be pleasant, lack of light can be dangerous for seniors. Installing more lights or fitting movement detectors around pools can drastically reduce the number of falls.


If visual signs in public pools are generally OK, they often forget the deaf, poorly sighted and blind. Signs in Braille, in sound and phosphorescent beacons are all alternatives when designing public pools accessible to all.

And non-slip floor coverings must be standard everywhere!

In France, the Mornantais Communal Community action plans are a good example 

“Built in 2015, our public pool design ensures it can be used by everyone, for example by the installation of sliding doors at the entrance.

Inclusivity starts in the car park, with reserved spaces and an easy-to-see sign that says we are an accessible water center. This approach continues in the reception area then where we have installed a reception desk for deaf people so that the ambient hubbub does not prevent them from understanding the hostess as well as a reception area for the handicapped with a lower desk. 

Traffic flows have also been designed to make it easy to get around with barriers instead of turnstiles and roomier changing cabins for people in wheel chairs.”

- Olivier Convert, Director of the inter-communal public pool the Aqueduc Water Center and speaker at the Piscine Global Europe 2022 trade show.

The public pool itself is designed to be inclusive for all ages

Safety in public pools also includes the pool itself and some specific needs by seniors require very detailed attention. Moreover, these details greatly facilitate the life of everyone who finds it difficult to get around temporarily or permanently.

Getting into the water 

Getting into the water is not just a problem for the handicapped – senior citizens find these installations useful too. The equipment can be mobile, like amphibious armchairs, lifts or self-operated cranes. Public pool designs should also be built with gently-sloping ramps rather than steps.

How to facilitate access to public pools for the disabled?

Water treatment

Although particularly economical and effective, chlorine can dry out the already fragile skin of elderly people and worsen some dermatological problems. So choose an alternative to chlorine. The filtration system must also reflect the fact that seniors use sun-tan lotion more regularly as they are more vulnerable to skin cancer.

Safety accessories

To reassure the elderly and guarantee their safety, public pools can provide non-skid slippers and life jackets. To react quickly to problems, first aid packs, defibrillators and telephones must be positioned as close to pools as possible. Wherever necessary, install non-chromed handrails to prevent scalds in saunas and Turkish Baths.

Propose activities suitable for seniors

Many public pools propose activities like aquafitness, aquabike and aquagym which are very popular with users of all ages and especially the elderly. But in fact all water sports activities are possible, even water polo, with the players seated.

Adjustable depth pool floors

“Sport-health” activities for seniors are easier to organize by using adjustable-depth pool floors.

Get-together rooms

Public pools are not just for training, dipping or trying to get fit again! They are also places in which to have fun and socialize with people of your own age and state of health. This is very important for seniors who often suffer from loneliness. Public pool designs should include relaxation areas like fruit juice and tea bars to encourage discussions.

More actions by the Mornantais Community of Communes

“We have three pools, one of which is a teaching pool with an adjustable-depth floor. We can shift it from a depth of 1.30m to 0m in just 10 min, which facilitates getting users into the water in addition to our floating armchairs. We have specific aquasport sessions adapted for seniors, focused on joint flexibility and light cardio-training. 

We also have a wellbeing area much appreciated by all, including elderly people, with saunas, Turkish Baths and a bubble bath, and rest and relax benches. Our little extra to encourage convivial and restful moments is a tea room with background music featuring rain in forests and bird songs as well as theme evenings.”

- Olivier Convert, Director of the inter-communal public pool the Aqueduc Water Center and speaker at the Piscine Global Europe 2022 trade show.

To get more advice about necessary adaptations, always include an elderly person in your public pool design team! Remember these other key trends will durably impact the pool and spa sector and anticipate by downloading our free ebook about community swimming pools management.

© Photo credit: oneinchpunch / Adobe Stock


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