Older farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers deal with the effects of aging just like everyone else. At an age when workers from other occupations are enjoying the peaceful life of full retirement, many senior farmers are routinely exposed to the hazards of farm tractors and machinery, animals, confined spaces, chemicals, and other related farm dangers. However, the already dangerous work of farming can become more hazardous as farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers age.
Aging is a naturally occurring process that has several important implications for agricultural disability, health, wellness, and safety. Although many seniors make some allowances for age-related reductions in physical strength, speed, agility, sight, and hearing, often many also resist the idea that they can no longer handle some of the routine farm tasks. In addition, many farmers suffer permanent hearing and arthritis which can seriously impact safe job performance.
Age-related sensory and physical impairments occur among many senior farm operators at various rates. Eyesight, hearing, balance, muscle strength, and reaction time may remain good for some individuals who are well beyond age 65, while becoming significantly poorer in others. Some individuals experience many changes over a short period of time while others notice gradual changes over longer periods. The first step toward addressing identified problems is to develop better awareness among senior farmers, ranchers, agricultural workers, family members, medical community members, extension specialists, and others of how sensory and physical impairments may contribute to an increased risk of injury for the senior farmer.
Generally speaking, reducing injury risks or hazards should be no different for senior farmers than for any other age group of farmers, ranchers, or agricultural workers. It is better to make changes to the working environment than to rely upon an individual's behavior around the hazard. Health and safety suggestions for the senior agricultural workers include:
For additional information, contact your local Outreach and Extension Center or the MU Extension Rural Safety and Health Program, 1.800.995.8503.
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