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Grandmother comes out of 'retirement' to be lifeguard at local pool due to staffing shortages

She was a lifeguard at 16, and now she gets to give back to the community.

robin borlandoe, lifeguard, lifeguard grandma, philadelphia
NBC News/YouTube

Robin Borlandoe is a 70-year-old grandma in Philadelphia working as a lifeguard this summer.

You're never too old to make a difference. That's what Robin Borlandoe, a 70-year-old grandmother, learned when she decided to become a local lifeguard this year. Seeing that there was a need she could fill, she got out her bathing suit and got back in the pool to help her community.


Borlandoe is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, a city that, like others around the country, was suffering from a lifeguard shortage earlier this year. In May, the city was looking for about 150 lifeguards to staff 60 to 70 pools. According to news station Fox 29, 150 was the bare minimum amount—they were actually looking to hire 400 lifeguards. Borlandoe was one of 16 certified lifeguards over the age of 60 who stepped up to fill the need.

"We're in a bad spot and I just wanted to do something," Borlandoe told Fox 29 back in May. "It wasn't only to help the kids, it was to help me too. I just needed to do something, so I came out of my comfort zone…it's been a journey."

Borlandoe revealed that she had been a lifeguard "some years ago" at the age of 16. She admitted that things were a lot different then (if she's 70, she was a teenager in the late 1960s, so that makes sense).

"The training is much more detailed," she admitted. "They expect professionalism, and teach how to save somebody in different ways. Back then it was just 'give you a whistle, get in the water.'"

Borlandoe, who worked in healthcare before being laid off prior to the pandemic, admits that she "loves the water" and really enjoyed being a lifeguard as a teen. She told Fox 29 the story about how she rescued a 7-year-old girl who was struggling to stay afloat in the pool and how good it made her feel to help.

Helping this generation of kids is Borlandoe's current motivation for getting back on the lifeguard stand as well. Not just keeping them safe in the water, but keeping them safe outside of the pool too.

"They have no place to go," she told NBC Nightly News. "The pools are closed all around."

During her NBC News interview, she shared that she and her family witnessed a shooting right on her front lawn. "There were three young boys that were shot—killed," she said.

"When you see it, it's scary and very sad." NBC News reported that at least 100 children ages 17 and younger had been victims of gun violence in Philadelphia this year alone. Borlandoe wanted to do "something small, just to help out." If her being on duty means a pool can be open and the kids can have someplace to hang out, to her that's worth all the training and time.

"I'm very much commited to this," she said. "This is my reputation, my community."

She has demonstrated that commitment already. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that she has already encountered a young person in need of her grandma wisdom. The outlet shared that there was a young man whose "saucy language landed him a poolside time-out." Borlandoe is clearly rising to the occasion.

“I’m going to make him my project,” she told the reporter.

We need more grandmas like Robin Borlandoe in the world.

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

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