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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Yardwork & Gardening Safety For Older Adults



Submitted by Casey Schnacky, Outreach Coordinator


Yardwork and gardening offer many physical benefits for older adults. These tasks get the body moving and keep the mind engaged. Yardwork and gardening can also lessen stress levels and improve overall mental wellbeing!


Yet overexertion from weeding, pruning and watering can result in back pain, sore muscles or a slip and fall injury. To make the most of your time in the yard and avoid potential injuries, keep the following safety issues in mind.


Position

When you were younger, you could probably squat or bend over with ease but for older adults, these positions can increase risk of falls and back pain. As an alternative, seniors may consider container gardening, with pots and other fixtures elevated to at least waist height.


Tools

Both hand and automatic tools can pose several issues for seniors, including:

• Sharp edges, potentially leading to cuts

• Hard-to-hold handles that slip from your grip

• Lack of ergonomic design that places stress on your posture


To adapt your yardwork and gardening routine as you get older, consider:

• Using tools with rounded edges and larger, ergonomic handles

• Adding tape or foam for a more comfortable grip

• Wearing a pair of gloves and closed-toed shoes

• Wearing glasses or goggles to block out any flying debris

• Avoiding electric tools, as the vibrations can cause a repetitive strain injury


Accessibility

Make sure you can access all areas of your garden and yard. Aspects like rocks, sticks and uneven or rough surfaces increase the chance you will trip and experience a fall injury. Statistically, older adults are more likely to fall outdoors. Whether you’re blowing leaves or tending to flower beds, you may need to have modifications made to your yard:


• Make sure all pathways are smooth and fill in any holes

• Remove rocks, sticks, children’s toys and other trip hazards

• Clean debris from your sidewalk and steps

• Get any walkway cracks fixed as soon as possible

• Install handrails and lighting

• Consider hardscaping to create a more even surface

• Use a cane or walking stick for support


Skin Issues

Years of sun exposure and aging can thin out your skin. This increases risks for cuts, which may become infected or take more time to heal. Yardwork places you at greater risk for:

• Sunburns and blisters from UV exposure

• Cuts from tools, branches and bushes

• Insect bites


To protect yourself:

• Wear bug spray, sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors

• Do most of your yardwork in the shade, before or after peak sun hours

• Bring along water to stay hydrated

• Make sure to wear long sleeves, pants and gloves


Avoid Heights

Do not use a ladder or stand in a position that places you above the ground. Falls from a ladder can lead to broken bones or spinal damage. If you can’t have a younger family member assist you, have a professional complete any work that would require you to be off the ground.


Pace Yourself

You may have previously been able to get all planting done in one afternoon but now, that might not be possible due to physical changes with age. Whether for home maintenance or as a hobby, pace yourself. Spread out yardwork tasks over multiple days and take breaks. Fatigue decreases focus and energy, while increasing risk of an accident.


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