How Old Is Too Old To Dive?

By Bonnie J. Cardone

Not long ago a Skin Diver reader wrote, asking if there was an age limit on diving. That and an impending birthday, combined with a recent interview with a 30-something editor, inspired this editorial.

I'm not going to tell you how old I'll be on the birthday, so don't ask. Let's just say I still remember 40.

It's actually the interview with the editor of my college alumni magazine that started it all. He was writing a short piece on me and, although we had never met, he knew how old I was because he knew what year I had graduated. During the course of our telephone interview he casually asked, 'Do you still dive?'

The question pulled me up short. 'Of course,' I replied, surprised and a bit indignant. Why would he think I wouldn't? The interview continued and I forgot about the question. When it popped up in my mind later, I realized he had probably asked that question because, to that young editor, I must seem ancient.

I take some comfort in the fact we never met face to face. After all, everyone I know (particularly my staff, and not always just before their annual reviews are due) tells me I don't look or seem that old. And I certainly don't feel old. That's one of the ironies of the aging process. You continue to feel young even when you clearly aren't. (That's what I've heard, anyway. You understand, of course, I have no personal knowledge about that!)

So, just how old is too old to dive? Well, there is no one answer, it depends upon the individual. Some people are too old to dive in their 30s, others are young enough to dive in their 70s.

If you enjoy diving, keep yourself physically fit and dive only in conditions you can handle, there's no reason to stop diving just because you're no longer a spring chicken. Stan Waterman still travels the world on live-aboards, making hundreds of dives every year, yet he's 76. And he's just one of many seniors I know who remain active, avid divers.

I believe young, out of shape divers are much more at risk for accidents than physically fit older divers. Older divers know their limitations and are not tempted to exceed them. They also have no need to prove anything to anybody. If a study were done, I would expect it to show the safety record of our diving seniors is exemplary.

So, how much longer will I continue to dive? Right now I can't imagine ever giving it up. There are too many places I haven't been, too many photographs I haven't taken, too many things yet to be seen and experienced. While some may think me over the hill, as long as I'm not under it I'll keep on diving!