The ocean offers many benefits for everyone, but accessibility issues can stop those who need it most from experiencing it. Two local women in Guernsey are working to make the sea for everyone.
Barriers to the Ocean
Infrastructure and safe water access often impede ocean access for older adults, children and adults with disabilities. Research shows that as many as 60% of people cannot participate in preferred beach activities, and nearly 30% cannot go to the beach at all.
Many things could limit someone’s access to the beach or ocean, including a lack of accessible transport and parking, ramps or bathrooms. Terrain can also pose a problem. Sand and damaged or bumpy paths can make the beach challenging to navigate for many people.
What Is Ocean Therapy?
Ocean therapy is a new form of physical and mental health therapy focusing on the sea’s healing benefits. Evidence shows that being near the water can relax the mind and body. The fresh air, flowing water and calming sounds provide a unique sensory experience.
For older adults, there are many benefits to being near the sea, including the following:
- Socialization: The beach is a fun and relaxing place to get older adults together during the day. Some meet for lunch or engage in some beach or water sports. It is an excellent way for people to make new friends and engage in conversation, which many older adults unfortunately lack.
- Fresh air: As we age, enjoying the outdoors often gets more difficult. Too often, it leads to individuals passing the time by watching TV, reading or playing on a tablet. Those activities are not wrong, but research shows that being outside can improve their health.
- Vitamin D: The beach is an excellent way to enjoy the salt air and get some sunshine. The sun provides vitamin D, the ocean can be a relaxing backdrop, and the fresh air can give their lungs a break from city pollution.
- Lack of sensory overload: It’s easy for anyone to get overwhelmed in stressful situations, especially if they live in a care facility with constant activity or a home surrounded by traffic. The beach is often quieter — or is at least a change from the constant sensory experiences that can feel draining.
For people with disabilities, the ocean provides opportunities for self-expression, inclusion and health benefits.
Ocean therapy allows individuals to get to know each other and enjoy exercise. It can boost their confidence, help them accomplish new goals and show them a supportive community with whom they can relate.
Ocean Therapy Guernsey
Even though about 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, professionals and passionate ocean lovers recognize that just because the ocean is present doesn’t mean the water is available to everyone. Jersey-based organization Healing Waves popularized ocean therapy by emphasizing its benefits and working to provide activities for people who don’t have access to the sea. Local teachers Rebecca Kellow and Rachael Green spent time with the organization and got inspired to begin their charity in Guernsey.
Ocean Therapy Guernsey strives to offer opportunities to people who struggle to access the water. Kellow and Green strive to help everyone participate in water sports and other ocean activities.
Green is a swimming coach, and Kellow is a surf instructor. Green focuses on arranging experiences for those with physical or mental health challenges, while Keller wants to assist older adults and more women to get involved. Together, they can create an environment that provides opportunities locals could not access before.
Spreading the Word
Kellow and Green say that while they can arrange the activities, they are looking for people to be a chairperson, treasurer and secretary.
They encourage people in the area to reach out if they have a passion for the ocean or helping others.