Senior Homesteading Injuries

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray

Because I am a senior homesteader, I write from experience and new experiences seem to surface from time to time to disrupt my normal homesteading routine. Sometimes, the mind is willing but the old body won’t respond as we wish and this occurred to me recently, which is why I have not been posting blogs for a few weeks. By telling of my experiences, perhaps it will benefit someone else.

When you do something foolish, it can be humbling to have to admit it, but if another senior homesteader will benefit from it — well, here it is.  

I don’t know how much different we over-70-year-olds are, but in my case, I’m mentally 40 years old and trapped in a mid-70s body. This can be dangerous thinking when we struggle through the day-to-day physicalities of homesteading. This delusional type of thinking seems to be a springboard for injuries, sprains and strains. In the past, I would rub a little analgesic on the affected area and be back to work the next day. This would be a fairly routine operating procedure for us senior homesteaders.

Sore muscles and strains and sprains are pretty common at our age, and usually we just work through them. We are accustomed to using ice packs, heating pads, various rubs, and ointments for these discomforts. But what happens when the usual remedies don’t work as usual?

Experiencing Injury on the Homestead

When we attain a certain age, it seems we lose our agility and flexibility so when we would slip or stumble in earlier years, we would recover quickly or not strain or pull anything. Once we seniors reach that magical age, those little awkward moves or repetitive activities have new and different consequences.

Such was my case a few weeks ago. Positioning a 40-foot ladder caused an awkward twist of the body and a couple days later I noticed a nagging low back pain. I wrongfully assumed it was something I could just work through as usual but when home remedies didn’t resolve the spasms and  constant ache I realized it was time to seek professional help. I virtually waited until my body came to a grinding halt, however, and now wish I had not waited that long.

Those who have had lower-back pain know the constant pain and how those occasional spasms take your breath away. For those who have never had the unpleasant experience, I hope you never experience debilitating lower-back pain. It seemed that every movement I made, from getting dressed in the morning to blinking my eyes, my lower back would spasm (slight exaggeration there). Homesteading work then comes to a sudden and screeching halt due to the inability to perform those usual duties due to the intense and constant pain.

This is clearly an aspect of homesteading that is never planned or anticipated — at least by me. If it were not for the accompanying pain, I would have considered it nothing more than a temporary inconvenience. As I sat in my recliner hoping for a fast recovery, it was apparent it was not going to resolve itself quickly and I knew I needed professional help.

Strength Training for Injury Prevention

Because I was unable to perform even simple tasks, I had recovery time to reflect on times past and wished I had taken better care of my body over the years and not continuously pushed it so hard. I have lifted weights for more than 50 years to stay healthy but stopped a few years ago when I assumed at my age the daily work required in maintaining our homestead was sufficient.

I now realize that I still need specific exercise to strengthen muscle groups in order to avoid injuries like this from happening again. Hard work is good for general health reasons, but toning of muscle groups is more important for good overall structure strength and balance.

Advice for Aging Homesteaders

There are lessons from my experience that should be learned for other senior homesteaders to avoid so what happened to me won’t happen to others. First, don’t let your mind convince you that you are younger than you are and accept your age and restrictions realistically. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Work smart and don’t rush tasks. When you start to hurt, don’t try to work through it like when you were younger; instead stop and rest until you can proceed without specific localized pain. Be prepared for tasks to take longer than they may have taken in the past.

Lastly, listen to your partner or spouse when they tell you not to push yourself beyond your ability.

Shoveling snow throughout the long winters and cutting, splitting, and stacking 9 to 12 cords of firewood a year is good exercise but not sufficient for an aging body. If the pain or discomfort persists and what has worked in the past no longer seems to work, then seek professional help.

In my case, I sought chiropractic help and after going 90 miles round-trip two times a week, I have noticed an improvement. At least an improvement to the point I can do my normal work again. (I’m personally not much on taking prescription medicine unless absolutely necessary, and pain killers and muscle relaxants would be a last resort for me.)

Plan Ahead for Continued Health

While we seniors can homestead in our golden years, we need to be more aware of our limitations and work accordingly. I didn’t do that and suddenly was unable to function normally. I’m not acquainted with other senior homesteaders and their tasks or work performed on their homestead, but in our case, not being able to work as usual for a month puts us significantly behind schedule for winter.

I also would not let the injury advance to the stage it did before seeking help. Doing that just compounded the foolishness of getting injured in the first place.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lives in the Sangre de Christo mountains of southern Colorado, go to their blog site: They live in a small cabin with their four German Shepherd Dogs at 9,800 feet elevation. Read all of Bruce’s remote-living blog posts for MOTHER EARTH NEWS here.

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