By John C. Schieszer
For Senior Voice 

Alaska's swimming pools are open and fantastic


January 1, 2022 | View PDF

© Can Stock Photo / halfpoint

Swimming is a great activity for the winter and while COVID has made it trickier, many pools are open and offering class schedules.

You could say swimming pools in Alaska in the time of COVID are doing swimmingly. Keeping healthy with a safe workout through water aerobics or lap swimming does more than build muscles, it keeps many older adults connected during the dark winter months. This year there will be many swimming options all across the state.

"Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise that an older adult can participate in," said Larry Parker, chief executive officer at YMCA of Alaska. "Aquatic activity works the heart muscle, it's easy on the joints, it increases your metabolism, can help maintain and build muscle mass and strength, and is a great way to recover from an injury or surgery."

Swimming can help older adults maintain balance and coordination and lower their risk for a fall. Swimming, water aerobics, and water walking are among of the safest activities an older adult can do during the winter in Alaska when there is so little sunlight, Parker said. "A fall on a treadmill while you are walking could result in a serious injury. A fall while you are walking in the pool may result in a little water up your nose and a chuckle at your expense from your workout partner."

COVID has had a significant impact on all YMCA programs. However, in comparison, it has impacted swimming activities the least. "For aquatic fitness classes, distancing can be achieved and some participants still choose to wear masks. Some activities, like lap swimming, makes wearing a mask much more challenging and in some cases dangerous so that has never been a part of the safety protocol," said Parker.

Swimming in the winter in Alaska is about much more than just exercising. "The social interaction begins once the toes hit the water and continues into the member lounge for coffee and conversation after class and often you see groups leave the Y for continued fellowship over lunch," Parker told Senior Voice.

There is simply no way to 100% eliminate the risk. However, carefully crafted hygiene programs have been put in place. The YMCA follows the mandates as determined by the Municipality of Anchorage. It does not inquire about immunization status, but it has hosted vaccination clinics for its members and the general public. "As senior citizens are the most vulnerable during this pandemic, it is very important for them to exercise extreme caution for their physical and mental well-being. The Y will help in that regard as much as we can," Parker said.

Michele Cateson is the assistant director of recreational programs at Alaska Pacific University (APU) in Anchorage and said in the beginning of the pandemic it adhered to strict daily temperature taking of all staff and swimmers, and it was closed to the non-APU community. It sprayed down high touch areas and bathrooms before and after each swim time with a disinfectant. It also recorded basic contact information in the event it needed to do contact tracing.

"Swim classes are smaller than before, this allows for social distancing," Cateson told Senior Voice. "Now, we require face masks in all common areas, except while swimming or showering. We also continue to clean the showers, bathrooms and common areas with a disinfectant, to reduce the transmission of any bacteria or viruses."

Older adults tend to have joint complications, muscle imbalances, and balance issues in general. Aquatic programs for older adults are extremely beneficial because they can help improve flexibility, pain, and provide a sense of well-being, Cateson said. "Swimming and aquatic aerobics offer older adults a place to be part of a community, and to take care of their minds and body. At APU, we offer two one-hour aquatic aerobic classes a week, as well as lap swimming hours, and adult swim training taught by seasoned instructors."

Masks are required in all areas except while showering or actively swimming, Cateson said. Patrons, staff and lifeguards are asked to wear their mask onto the pool deck and then they are allowed to take them off when in the water. APU requires all staff and students to either be vaccinated or have weekly testing reported.

"A properly chlorinated pool area has very little chance of transmission of any COVID variant," Cateson said.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough implemented limited capacities in both the pools and saunas when in high risk status during 2020. Now that vaccinations have become available, the Borough follows CDC guidelines and does not limit capacities, according to Eryn Brooks, aquatics supervisor at the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Swimming is vital to the older population in Ketchikan and this swimming center does not require masking and/or immunizations from either staff or customers. There is a designated swim time for seniors giving them an option if they have any concerns with larger groups.

Find a pool near you


Southside YMCA at Dimond, Dimond Center Mall, 344-7788. Lap swim, water exercise, arthritis water exercise, private lessons, more.

Anchorage Community YMCA, 5353 Lake Otis Pkwy., 563-3211. Lap swim, water exercise, arthritis low impact water exercise, more.

University of Alaska Anchorage Public Pool, 3211 Providence Dr., 786-1231. Lap swim, open swim

H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark, 1520 O'Malley Rd., 522-4420. Lap swim, Riverwalk, water exercise

Moseley Sports Center at Alaska Pacific University, 4400 University Dr., 564-8314. Lap swim, water exercise, adult training classes.

Alaska Club East (membership required), 5201 E. Tudor, 337-9550. Lap swim, water aerobics, private swim lessons.

Alaska Club South (membership required), 10931 O'Malley Centre, 344-6567. Lap swim, lessons, more.

Buckner Physical Fitness Center Bldg., 690 D St., Fort Richardson, 384-1308. Lap swim, water exercise.

High school pools: Contact city Dept. of Recreation, 907-343-4402, for pool schedules, activities.


Alaska Club Fairbanks South (membership required), 747 Old Richardson Hwy., 452-6801. Lap swim, water exercise.

Mary Siah Recreation Center, 805 14th Ave., 459-1081. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim.

Hamme Swimming Pool, 931 Airport Way, 459-1086. Lap swim, open swim.

Patty Pool in Patty Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks, Tanana Loop. 474-7744. Lap swim, open swim


Augustus Brown Pool, 1619 Glacier Ave., 586-5325. Lap swim, water exercise, aqua aerobics.

Dimond Park Aqua Center, 3045 Dimond Park Loop, 586-2782. Lap swim, water exercise, swim lessons, sauna

Around the state

Barrow Barrow High School Pool, 1684 Okpik St., 852-8950. Lap swim

Bethel Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Aquatic Health and Safety Center, 267 Akiachak Dr., 543-0390. Lap swim, water exercise

Eagle River Alaska Club Eagle River (membership required), 12001 Business Blvd., 694-6677. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim

Cordova Bob Korn Memorial Pool, 609 Railroad Ave., 424-7200. Lap swim, open swim

Craig Craig Aquatic Center, 1400 Watertower Rd., 826-2794. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim, sauna

Haines Haines Pool, 274 Haines Hwy., 766-2666. Lap swim, senior aquatics class, open swim

Homer Kate Kuhns Aquatic Center, Homer High School, 600 E. Fairview Ave., 235-4600. Lap swim, senior exercise class, open swim.

Kenai Kenai Central High School, 9583 Kenai Spur Hwy., 283-7476. Lap swim, open swim

Ketchikan Gateway Aquatic Center, 601 Schoenbar Rd., 288-6650. Lap swim, senior swim, open swim

Kodiak Kodiak Community Pool, 800 Upper Mill Bay Rd., 481-2519. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim

Naknek Kvimarvik Pool, School Road, 246-7665. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim

Nikiski Nikiski Pool, 55525 Poolside Ave., 776-8800. Lap swim, open swim

Ninilchik Ninilchik School Pool, 15735 Sterling Hwy., 714-0351. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim

Nome Nome Beltz Jr./Sr. High School, 2920B Nome-Teller Hwy., 443-5717. Lap swim, open swim

North Pole Wescott Pool, 300 E. 8th Ave., 488-9402. Lap swim, water exercise, open swim

Palmer Palmer Pool, 1170 W. Bogard, 861-7676. Lap swim, swim lessons

Petersburg Community Center, 500 N. 3rd St., 722-3392. Lap swim, swim exercises, open swim

Seward Seward Jr./Sr. High School Pool, 2100 Swetmann Ave., 224-3900. Lap swim, swim exercises, open swim

Sitka Blatchley Pool, 601 Halibut Point, 747-5677. Lap swim, swim lessons, open swim

Soldotna Soldotna High School Swimming Pool, 425 W Marydale Ave., 262-7419. Lap swim, swim exercises

Unalaska Unalaska Aquatics Center, 55 E. Broadway, 581-1649. Lap swim, swimming lessons

Valdez Valdez Swimming Pool, 319 Robe River Dr., 835-5429. Lap swim, therapy swim

Wasilla Wasilla Pool, 701 E. Bogard Rd., 861-7680. Lap swim, swim lessons, senior swim, open swim

Wrangell Wrangell Pool, 321 Church St., 874-2444. Lap swim, arthritis swim, water aerobics, open swim


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