Grandma, 70, takes lifeguard job to get kids in the pool, off the streets where 100 have been shot  

Only 50 of Philly’s 65 pools are open this summer due to a lifeguard shortage — a problem facing cities across the nation.

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A Philadelphia grandmother has taken a crucial city job — her second time as a lifeguard — to help get area kids off its streets. Only 50 of Philly’s 65 public pools are open this summer due to a lifeguard shortage, a problem facing cities across the country. 

“I was a lifeguard when I was 16 and loved it,” Robin Borlandoe shared with NBC Nightly News. “I decided to finally do it to do something for our kids, our community.”

Philadelphia grandmother Robin Borlandoe was partly motivated to become a lifeguard by a shooting that occurred outside her own home. Three young boys died. (Photo: Screenshot/

Borlandoe, 70, is the mother of three and has six grandchildren. She said that she took a lifeguard job because so many children — nearly 100 — have been shot in the City of Brotherly Love this year. 

“They have no place to go,” Borlandoe said of children nationwide. “The pools are closed all around.”

The former retiree noted that she was partly motivated by a deadly shooting that occurred outside her own home, one in which three young boys died. “When you see it, it’s scary,” she said, “and it’s very sad.” 

Borlandoe maintained that she wanted “just to do something, no matter how small, to help out.” She failed the qualifying lifeguard test the first time but persisted until she passed.  

“I’m very much committed to this,” she declared. “This is my reputation. This is my community.”

The lifeguard shortage has also been spotlighted in New York City, where, late last month, its parks department told Gothamist the agency would “adjust our pool operations daily based on lifeguard headcounts, and only open them where we have adequate lifeguard coverage to keep swimmers safe.”

The staffing issues have caused the cancellation of free swim lessons and the slashing of hours at city-run facilities. A first-year lifeguard makes $16 an hour in NYC, just $1 above minimum wage. A decade ago, being a lifeguard was an elite job that paid more than $6 above minimum wage. 

“They are pinching pennies on every type of worker right now in salary and head count, and we are all just hurting from it,” a city staffer told Gothamist. “This is the version of it where you see the service impact immediately.”

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