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March 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Diving Safer as We Age

learning from the deaths of diving friends

from the March, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Last summer, the Pacific Northwest dive community lost two older, experienced underwater photographers within the span of one month. The first, a 61-year-old female, took place at Duncan Rock off Washington's northwest coast. The second, a 69-year-old male, disappeared off Mozino Point in Nootka Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island.

These deaths started me thinking about the safety of diving as we age, looking at how the aging process impacts divers; reviewing my dive protocols; and seeing if there are any lessons to be learned from the recent deaths of two well-known underwater photographers.

The good news is that, according to DAN, there is no theoretical age limit for diving. The bad news is that as we age, there are definite physiological changes taking place in our bodies. And, there is indeed a difference between chronological age and physical age.

Dr. Ernest Campbell (aka The SCUBA Doc) lists some conditions that impact many older divers:

Most older divers are out of condition because they do not exercise regularly or adequately. This may lead to exhaustion on dives, or an inability to self-rescue in an emergency. General health, agility, and strength decrease with age. Maximum heart rate, oxygen uptake, and lung compliance decrease with age. These, too can contribute to dive exhaustion. The older diver is more prone to getting cold and hypothermia and is more susceptible to decompression sickness, and when it strikes, it is more severe than in younger divers....


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