NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — What better time to find a new career than in your 80s? A Nashville grandfather is doing just that, stepping out of retirement and diving head first into a new job to help fill the lifeguard shortage at the Green Hills YMCA.
“I’m doing something good for the community, because we want to keep these pools open,” said Peter Fechheimer.
It was a sign at the Green Hills YMCA that caught Fechheimer’s attention.
“I said, ‘I saw your sign, I don’t know if I’m a good candidate, I haven’t been a lifeguard before, I’m 82 years old,'” Fechheimer recalled. “He said, he smiled and he said, ‘If you can pass the Red Cross test that we have for lifeguards, we’d love to hire you.'”
It was no easy task, but Fechheimer — a former CEO of a contract recruiting company and now grandfather to four — was down for the undertaking. The first step required passing an eight-hour online course, followed by a weekend of physical challenges.
“I was the only one over 25 years old,” Fechheimer said with a laugh.
In the water, Fechheimer’s skills were put to the test. Among the challenges, he had to tread water for two minutes without using his hands, swim 300 yards without stopping, and reenact rescues.
“And then we had to do something that wasn’t easy. Billy the lifeguard supervisor would throw a brick in the water, about a 10 pound brick. You had to start at the shallow end, swim down to the other end, and bring it back on your stomach, kicking on your back, in a minute and 30 seconds,” Fechheimer explained. “That was something I was worried about, but I practiced a lot and then I was able to do it.”
He hopes his story will inspire others to dive in and learn life saving skills.
“I’ve always felt I needed to have those skills in case anything happened to me or somebody in my family, and I want to be ready if that happens,” the grandfather told News 2.
He’s ready with the official title as a certified lifeguard now under his belt, Fechheimer has secured his seat on the stand serving as eyes in the sky at the Green Hills YMCA.
“Oh yeah, I’ve been working. I feel comfortable, I feel confident, I feel happy, I feel like I’m making a contribution, and I get a paycheck,” he said with a chuckle.
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While Fechheimer is more than five times the minimum age requirement for a lifeguard position here, he serves as a reminder that you can’t be too old.
“I encourage anybody who can swim at all to consider being a lifeguard, no matter what your age is,” he said.
“We are having to continuously hire throughout the year to keep our pools open. We are offering lifeguard classes year round. Some aquatics managers in the area are having to work long hours lifeguarding, or even reduce pool hours due to lack of staff,” the aquatics director at the Green Hills YMCA told News 2. “At the Green Hills Y, we are only just getting back to normal operating hours in the wake of COVID. Even at our center, so close to the heart of Nashville, we are struggling to hire enough lifeguards, swim instructors, and child care workers.”
For more information about becoming a lifeguard with the YMCA, follow this link.