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Safe at Sea: Boating tips for older adults

By PAT SCHMIDT - | Dec 8, 2020

In a recent column, I referenced an article by Dr. Gino Bottino who delved into the concept that with the increasing number of retirees and the rising cost of boats, most engine-powered boats are bought by older boaters. My conclusion, having finished his article, was that his boating tips were excellent for boaters of all ages.

Except, that only tells half the story: The truth is as boaters age, particular care needs to be taken. Age creeps up on all of us, and many of us are in denial. In our own minds, we’re still young and think we can still do anything. (After all, how old would you think you were if you didn’t know how old you are?) However, as we age, that just isn’t the case: We can no longer do anything we please.

Facing the reality of aging means understanding the normal aging process and knowing what signs to look for in ourselves and in others. As we age, says Bottino, we may:

– Become forgetful, even fuzzy-minded

– Learn more slowly and retain less information

– Have slower hand-eye coordination

– Experience vision changes

– Have less stamina and increased fatigue

– Lose flexibility

– Lose balance and agility

– Not process situations or make decisions quickly

– Lose strength

– Take longer to process information and, thus, find multi-tasking difficult

Of course, no one experiences all of the above symptoms, though older boaters can take positive steps to remain “safe at sea.” Some of these steps include:

– Plan shorter (thus, less strenuous) trips during the day.

– Never go out alone.

– Downsize or change boat type to accommodate your physical abilities.

– Install a ladder or ramp on your dock.

– Plan trips earlier in the day when energy is at its height.

And even if you are young and spry, here are a few tips we all should follow:

– Get regular physical check-ups.

– Exercise regularly to stay in shape; biking and yoga are excellent for all ages.

– Take a CPR course.

– Always, always file a Float Plan.

– Always, always wear a life jacket.

Recently, I told one of our daughters, “You know, I always knew I would grow old, I just didn’t realize it would happen so fast!” Part of that realization is doing everything I can to be safe at sea and at home.

Pat Schmidt is a member of America’s Boating Club of Sanibel-Captiva. For more about the chapter and its boating education courses, visit www.sancapboating.club or contact education@sanibelcaptivasps.org or 612-987-2125.