“Nobody likes getting older, but it’s better than the alternative…” is a phrase that we hear often in regards to aging. When it comes to safety on the farm, we need to respect the fact that as we age we don’t have the same reflexes, strength, flexibility or agility that we had in years past. This progresses faster in some people, and slower in others. We must learn to gauge our own abilities and be realistic in the activities we choose to do—and how we choose to do them.
For instance, climbing up a 24-foot extension ladder and reaching out to paint the barn may have been something we took for granted in our younger years, but should be reconsidered when we reach 60 or older. Even if we are fit and healthy, our reflexes and balance may not be what they once were. Our ability to catch ourselves if we lose our balance, even slightly, can have devastating results.
Younger members of the team need to watch out for their elders in these situations. Offer to do those riskier activities, and regardless of age, be sure to use all the safety equipment and practices that the situation demands. It may be tough to do, but sometimes you might have to tell one of your elders “NO—you really shouldn’t do that. I’ve got it from here….” This limitation on activities might include driving large or heavily-loaded equipment on highways, working around electricity, working around open pits, or jobs that require going up and down stairs carrying a heavy load.
For those situations where it is hard to say NO—or they just won’t listen to you—remind them that even a slight delay in their reflexes could cause severe harm not only to them, but all the people working around them. Elders can help by being willing to accept assistance, and ask for it when needed. Great relationships between grandchildren and grandparents are born of these situations.
Agriculture is blessed with the ability to have multiple generations learning from years of experience. Do your best to keep your wise and wonderful elders working with you as long as possible.