The “Gardening Smarter as We Age” classes finished this past week. I learned a lot about how to use my body more efficiently to reduce the pain I feel after doing my landscape chores. Think of all the things we gardeners do with our bodies: bend, dig, haul, kneel, mix, plant, prune, pull, rake, lift, twist and rake, just to name a few. And, we think gardening is a leisure activity!
Many of us deal with arthritis, cardiovascular or respiratory issues, diabetes, osteoporosis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel or old injuries. In addition, we’re not as flexible as we wish or we used to be. There are many tools, adaptors and methods that will allow us to garden much more easily as we age.
Some of the things we learned during the classes were to push rather than pull and to maintain a good neutral posture while doing all tasks. Ergonomic tools were covered in depth. An ergonomic tool is one that allows us to keep our wrists and other body parts in a neutral position. It will often weigh less than three pounds and work with our center of gravity. An ergonomic tool enhances our performance, our productivity and the quality of our work. It should reduce or eliminate any discomfort, fatigue or physical stress while we use it. A good tool will help reduce injuries, particularly repetitive stress injuries and accidents. However, not all ergonomic tools work for every person. It’s not ergonomic if it’s uncomfortable for you.
Ergonomic tools have padded handles with a non-slip texture and a diameter greater than or equal to 1.5 inches. Spring and/or ratcheting action reduces the strength or flexibility needed to use a tool. With long-handled tools, the upper part of the shaft should bend so it’s more horizontal with a second hand grip along the shaft.
Here are a few tricks to improve your tools. Spray canned rubber on a handle to decrease the tendency to slip. Or wrap a handle with padded gardener’s tape or tennis handle tape to increase the padding. Adding bicycle grips to tools works well too. And, there are many kind of handle adaptors for existing tools. There are back-saving handles too. Also, look for lightweight tools that extend your reach, perhaps with a telescoping handle.
I have found some of my favorite stress-reducing tools at Greenhouse Garden Center. The home stores also carry some. Arthritissupplies.com has a good selection.
Garden more easily with ergonomic stress-reducing tools and continue gardening much later in life.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.