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Taking care of your health through the ages

Simple lifestyle changes can help ensure you age well, and safely

Adult farmer feeding dairy cows.

It is no secret that Canadian farmers are getting older. The 2016 Census shows the average age of farmers in Canada is 55, up from 52 in just 10 years. It is also no secret that as people age, we experience changes that can reduce our physical and mental capabilities.

Signs of aging include:

1. Eye sight changes
2. Hearing impairment
3. Decrease in strength and stamina
4. Memory loss
5. Chronic illnesses

Most of these changes are natural but can potentially be made worse by long-term exposure to machinery noise, dust, physical exertion, and other factors that come along with farming. Being proactive, recognizing, and addressing these changes can help your health.

The good news is that there are ways to deal with these situations. The aging process changes may be influenced by genetics but one of the greatest influences on how well we age depends on our lifestyle. In other words, we do have some control.

To stay healthy:

1. Ensure that you get adequate rest. Even if this means taking a short nap during the day. With a rested mind and body the job will get done and get done safely.

2. Get your vision checked regularly. As we age our eyes deteriorate and regular tasks can become more challenging. If you can’t see well, operating machinery, using tools and other tasks become more dangerous.

3. Arthritis, and other aches and pains can restrict movement and make performing some physical tasks more difficult. Ignoring these aches and pains and even the onset of arthritis can lead to significant injury and long-term damage. Address these issues with your doctor to keep you moving your best.

4. Hearing loss due to age and/or constant exposure can put you and others in danger. Although you can’t recover lost hearing, wearing hearing protection can reduce further damage.

5. Some medications can impact the ability to operate machinery safely. Be cognizant of the medications you take and ensure that side effects do not inhibit your ability to safely go about your daily tasks. Talk to your doctor about restrictions you may have.

Try these strategies to stay healthy as you age.

Physical activity: Regular physical activity can help slow down the aging process and keep you healthier and safer. Participating in regular physical activity increases energy levels and balance and strength are improved. Exercise increases our serotonin levels to prevent anxiety and depression and exercise even slows the onset of chronic disease such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Mental activity: Our mental health can be improved with various activities. As suggested above physical activity helps us in improving our mental health by releasing a chemical called serotonin. Social activity, such as getting together with others, increases a chemical called oxytocin which is the body’s natural response to stress. Keeping a positive attitude through positive thinking also has many benefits. Reaching out to medical professionals is also important. Do not suffer in silence — seek help.

Nutrition: The human body needs fuel to operate effectively and efficiently. Eating regularly and eating healthy foods will provide adequate nutrition that keeps our bodies functioning at their optimal levels.

Sleep: As we age sleeping well may become more of a challenge. Resting, napping and seeking the advice of medical professionals can help address any sleep deficit. Do not operate machinery if tired and always pull over if you find yourself nodding off behind the wheel of any vehicle.

Aging is a natural occurrence that we cannot stop. However, there are ways to age well and safely. Awareness and acceptance of our limitations is essential for our health and wellbeing.

– Gerry Friesen from Signature Mediation for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.

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