“We’re getting old you know,” reminds my long-time friend who is helping with seeding. The comment usually comes at the end of a long day or during a task that’s particularly taxing.
“Naw, we aren’t old yet,” I say in response. “In ten or 15 years, we may start to be getting old, but right now, we’re just seasoned.”
In truth, age catches up with us all, but there are some who use it as an excuse to avoid learning and adapting.
Even if you keep active and relatively fit, there are physical challenges as the age meter keeps ticking. Now in my middle 50s, I don’t jump down from machinery the way I once did. Don’t need another knee injury.
And that rock out in the middle of the field can wait for the front end loader. I don’t want a bunch of visits to a chiropractor like the last time I wrestled a big stone. Getting it into the back of the truck did give me a lot of satisfaction, but it was soon clear that the rock had the last laugh.
Working at heights doesn’t impress me as much as it used to either. If one of the sons is around, better to send him up the ladder to deal with the bin lid problem. While I can still use a shovel in a grain bin as well as my boys, I’m moving to more hopper bottoms.
There’s also the sight thing that most of us have to deal with. In my case, its glasses off for working up close. Invariably, there’s an episode of hide and seek to figure out where the glasses are parked following some equipment repair job.
Many aspects of grain farming require far less physical labour than in previous decades, so it’s easier for farmers in their late 60s, 70s or even early 80s to remain productive. When a job is physically demanding, get someone else to do it – a family member, employee or contractor.
While there are fewer farming activities requiring muscles and agility, top agricultural performance requires that you keep up mentally. If you think you’re too old to learn and adapt, you’re going to quickly be at a disadvantage.
Older farmers are less likely to use a smart phone, less likely to use the Internet for research and less likely to use social media such as Twitter, but many older people have adopted these tools. If you want a cell phone that’s just a phone, your age is showing.
When it comes to learning and adopting new technology, age is an attitude. Our physical abilities will diminish with time, but if you keep an open mind and keep working on it, you can retain the mental capacity to utilize the new technologies that suit your needs.
It also helps that technology is becoming more user-friendly.
There are 80 year olds who still seed and combine because they aren’t intimidated by the new-fangled monitors and auto steer. The biggest challenge for some of the very senior combine and tractor operators is just getting up and down the stairs. Once they’re in the cab, they do just fine.
Not everybody wants to farm into their 70s, but some of us do. If you want to be useful and relevant on the farm into your advancing years, work to keep the mind as youthful as the body.