With an aging population in most countries and with advances in medicine and lifestyle, more and more seniors lead active lives. Many pick up new sports or continue their favorites well into their golden years. For many sports, this presents some challenges, but scuba diving and old age are perfectly compatible, with some considerations.
Scuba is a relatively young sport. It only became popular in the 1950s and 1960s and gained widespread attention in the 1980s. We don’t necessarily have that many generations of scuba divers to learn from, at least not in terms of diving and longevity. But with our knowledge of the strains and risks of scuba diving, combined with our knowledge of the effects of old age on the body, we can identify some important issues.
Risks of scuba diving and old age
First, age doesn’t necessarily increase the inherent risks of scuba diving itself. There is nothing to indicate that old age puts divers at significantly more risk of DCS, for instance. But some health conditions that can accompany old age can be troublesome when combined with scuba diving. A relatively minor cardiovascular incident might make you feel ill or slightly faint on land, but will be manageable with the right help. But if this happens underwater, you could easily drown. And getting the right help while in the water is much more difficult.
Decreased bone mass and muscle strength are also problematic for scuba diving. As we all know, the sport involves hauling quite a bit of heavy gear.
Luckily, active divers can reduce the likelihood of many of these conditions through lifestyle choices. They can usually manage others well enough with medicine to make diving safely possible.
Stay on top of your health
Regular health checkups are important for scuba divers as they age. There is no set frequency; the individual’s health and their doctor’s recommendations should determine this. But as one ages, checkups should become more frequent, and you should ideally visit a doctor with insights into the demands and risks of scuba diving. Checkups can help identify problematic conditions early and help the diver make necessary adjustments.
General health considerations
Scuba diving requires general good health, particularly cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. Monitor your heart health in participation with your doctor, and follow a heart-healthy diet. Needless to say, you shouldn’t smoke, regardless of age.
Eyesight can also deteriorate with age, so get your eyes checked regularly. And while there isn’t conclusive evidence that our eardrums weaken as we age, getting yours checked regularly as well isn’t a bad idea.
Fitness and the aging diver
Apart from monitoring your health and getting regular medical checkups, you can do much to help yourself stay and active diver by maintaining good fitness levels.
Combine strength training and cardiovascular training to ensure that you maintain muscle strength, keep your cardiovascular health in prime shape, and maintain a healthy body weight. And this is one of the areas of life where it is better to keep up than to catch up. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to build a strong foundation of health and maintain it into old age. Exercise not only helps maintain the strength needed to dive, but also helps maintain bone density to some degree.
Is it safe to dive for seniors?
In general, the bottom-line answer is “yes.” Accident statistics show no significant increase in dive incidents among seniors. So, barring any prohibiting medical conditions, and provided we dive smart, stay healthy, stay fit, and follow the guidelines of our doctors and other medical professionals, there’s no reason we shouldn’t all become active, happy senior divers.