Be careful Grandpa and Grandma, we need you
- Reduced hearing, vision and reaction time lead to an increased incidence of farm accidents among seniors
- Producers 80 and older are most at risk of sustaining grievous injuries on the farm
- Safety is a topic that must be broached if you perceive a real safety threat to them or others
- Choose the right time and place to discuss in private
- Once you’ve named the problem, ask the person what they think
Time and tide wait for no man, famed English poet Geoffrey Chaucer once wrote. His meaning was that no one can stop the march of time. This has important ramifications in agriculture, where people often continue working into their 70s and even beyond.
Regular exercise can help slow the effects of aging, but eventually the ability to perform certain tasks will diminish. Reaction time slows. Hearing and eyesight fade. All these factors lead to an increased incidence of farm accidents among seniors.
Elderly producers high risk for injury
According to the latest numbers from the Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting system, producers age 80 and older are the group most at risk of sustaining grievous injuries on the farm.
If you’re convinced it’s a question of security, come back to it. Don’t give up.
They represent nearly 20 per cent of the 1,975 farm deaths recorded in Canada between 1990 and 2008, with a fatality rate of almost 80 deaths per 100,000. Compare that to the overall fatality rate of 13 deaths per 100,000.
Producers over age 60 represented roughly 40 per cent of all farm deaths. Seventy per cent of those fatalities were machine related, with the three most common causes being rollovers, run overs and entanglements.
Having the difficult conversation
What should you do when Grandpa or Grandma no longer appear able to safely handle livestock or drive the grain truck or tractor?
“It’s a very delicate topic,” says Quebec City psychologist Richard Marcotte. “But you must broach it if you perceive a real safety threat to them or others.”
Marcotte says the most important thing is to choose the right time and place. “You want to do it in private, not while the person is doing something else, or in front of people, so you don’t embarrass them,” he says.
“You must be diplomatic, but forthright. Say something like, ‘Dad, I’ve got something very important to tell you, because I care about you.’ Then spell out the problem frankly: ‘I think you’re no longer able to drive the tractor safely, that it’s dangerous for you and others.’”
Once you’ve named the problem, Marcotte says it’s important to ask the person what they think. “Don’t lecture them,” he cautions. “You have to listen.”
If they react with anger or emotion, Marcotte recommends ending the conversation – with the caveat that you’ll discuss it later. “Give them a day or two to digest it,” he says. “But if you’re convinced it’s a question of security, come back to it. Don’t give up.”
From an AgriSuccess article by Mark Cardwell