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Senior Safety Keeps Yard Work Enjoyable
Frank Blood

Senior Safety Keeps Yard Work Enjoyable

Another growing season is another year older for us than when we last worked in our gardens or on our lawns. Though our plans for the lawn and garden may be about the same, physically we have changed; for some of us only slightly and for others more dramatically. At some point, age-related changes result in a decline in our ability to function at the same level of safety as before. Unless we did something proactively since then to counter those changes, such as increased exercise or practiced balance, we will have a more difficult time safely maneuvering over uneven terrain and working low to the ground.

Few activities bring some people more joy than planting and caring for a garden or manicuring a lawn and shrubs. It is good for the mind, body, and soul. In general, mowing a lawn or gardening is equivalent to walking at a pace of about 3.5mph for the same length of time and a study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening reduces stress better than many other relaxation exercises. It’s one of the last activities we would want to – or should – give up. However, the older we get the harder it is to do.

 

Greater risk to seniors

During middle age, the process is so gradual that the difference is barely noticeable from year to year. It usually isn’t until we approach our senior years that we pay closer attention to the aches and pains. But more than those, there is a greater risk of injury or death caused by a decline in physiological ability and mental acuity and a higher susceptibility to disease. For example:

  • Inability to recognize dehydration as easily
  • Slower reaction time
  • Decline in range of motion and dexterity
  • Less stamina
  • Increased risk of heat-related illness because the body cools down slower or because of chronic illnesses like kidney disease, heart conditions, and blood circulation problems

 

Aging can cause the same tools that made the job easier for us only a short while ago to become more difficult to handle and more dangerous to use.

  • Lawnmowers and trimmers
  • Ladders and extension cords
  • Chainsaws and hedge trimmers
  • Digging tools and hoses

 

Know how to stay safe

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the rate of most lawn and garden care equipment (not including lawnmowers) injuries treated in hospital emergency departments is twice as high for people over the age of 65 than for those 25 to 64 years. The lawnmower injury rate is 1.3 times higher.

Awareness is the key to staying safe. Pay attention to where you are and what you are doing. Work slower and for shorter intervals. Hydrate more often. For a big project, break it down into easy segments and stop before you recognize you’re getting tired.

There are many products designed to make your job easier and safer. Instead of balancing on a ladder, get an extendable-reach pruner. Buy lightweight hoses with kink-proof ends that won’t put a strain on arthritic joints or strain your back. Straight handles on garden tools can be changed to adaptive handles with ergonomic non-slip grips that come off the tool at nearly 90 degrees, so the hand and wrist don’t need to bend. For more ideas, Google “Garden tools for seniors” and enjoy the summer.

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