Luigi Vecchio: the senior-sized swimming pool

From one of the foremost experts on neonatal and water disabilities, a national and EAA reference with his aquatic center, the decisive steps and new focus on the Over 65s, the target audience of the future of pools and gyms

Luigi Vecchio is among the pioneers in Italy of neonatal aquatics and activities for people with disabilities. A path started 28 years ago with Idea Blu, always focusing on the great professionalism of the staff and the quality of environments and services. On the strength of this experience and his high level of soft skills, he has progressively developed ideas and pathways for the Over 65s, a category of people who, in many ways, share common needs and wants with the targets in which Luigi Vecchio and his Team have specialized over nearly three decades. Today the time is more than ripe to focus on the older generation, ensuring them a better quality of life and great benefits: the ideas, beliefs, solutions and advice of such an established and credible expert.

The less young, at Idea Blu, are already wonderfully well received and they respond with smiles.

Among the pioneers of neonatal aquatics in Italy, can you briefly tell us when you began your journey and the decisive milestones that make Idea Blu a national reference today?

A seminar in Varese in 1990 ignited my interest in neonatal aquatics, which matured into the decision to build, together with my wife Silvia, a pool with the ideal features for babies, which opened in February 1996. A decisive milestone was the organization of the First National Conference on Neonatal Aquatics in Pavia in 2001, a discussion among professionals in the field that has since fostered numerous synergies and initiatives among participants. The second milestone was the invitation we received to teach “baby swimming” to many students in Pavia’s Physical Science Department, some of whom are still working with us.

How does your high expertise about disability in water fit into the Idea Blu project and what results have you achieved in that area?

The decision to offer appropriate physical activity to people with disabilities, now fortunately widespread, was originally a strategic choice: it was in fact a rather complicated but interesting activity, free from competitors and preordained patterns. Then the people with disabilities themselves taught us how to work together with them, how to adapt our skills to their needs toward sometimes incredible results due mainly to coeducation and teamwork. Now disability in Blue Idea is almost normality (assuming “normality” exists). Water, for those with disabilities, means lightness and freedom, smiles and play, and teaches how to fly.

People with disabilities themselves have taught us how to work together with them, adapting our skills to their needs toward incredible results

Luigi Vecchio

In practice you have a social vocation that moves from aquatic education for young children and is sublimated into your and your commitment to people with disabilities: a sustainable project and if so under what economic and organizational conditions?

Aquatic education is essential at any age. For babies, the added value is in the presence of fully dedicated and attentive parents. Aquatic education with disabilities gives users unique opportunities to improve their health, but also to increase or maintain independence. And all with pleasure and in the midst of other people. The costs of a swimming pool, even a small one, are high. First and foremost, energy costs. And in some cases having well-heated water and air is critical. In any case, there are organizational solutions to accommodate people with disabilities by ensuring the highest quality services with sustainable fees.

Idea Blu is professionalism, welcoming, inclusiveness with a smile, core values for every person who frequnti the Pavia center

In light of your experiences, how are you planning to transform environments and services to accommodate the prevailing population group in Italy, the Over 65s?

We are in the age of the hit-and-run, where people believe that by reading the title of a book they already own its contents. For this, environments and services must be basically “easy.” People need to feel welcomed. Also accepted. We almost sixty-year-olds are the former baby boomers, and we experienced great years! Therefore, we will find in the swimming pool an excellent opportunity to slow down the pains of our structural wear and tear. But don’t treat us as old people! I know more people who, accustomed to exercise as former sportsmen and women, as well as late sportsmen and women, live much better lives than much younger people embroiled in total sedentariness. As far as the environments are concerned, I think it would be nice to have locker rooms, bathrooms and showers that are more similar to those of a home, while for the facilities the focus is always on trying to ensure every comfort.

But don’t treat us as old people! People accustomed to exercise live much better lives than much younger people embroiled in total sedentariness

Luigi Vecchio

People with motor impairment even those who are not self-sufficient in movement are the seniors: what affinities in the water do you identify with respect to the categories that have distinguished Idea Blu to date in the territorial and national scene?

Water, by restricting and restraining movement, reduces the speed of movement to all. When floating also you are all “equal height,” even those who cannot stand dry. The person, as he advances with age, loses muscle fibers and nerve fibers, loses autonomy, loses ability. He or she is in a condition truly similar to the infant who has yet to learn and also to the person who instead has lived accompanied by a disability. By observing people with disabilities, we learn to look for more and more personalized solutions, and personalization always works.

Vertical water activities and suitable environments of Idea Blu are ideal for the less young

Interview was published in HA Wellbeing of January-February 2024. To read it in its entirety, continue on Wbox.co.uk

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