The Challenges of Homesteading For Seniors

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Can you still homestead in your senior years? You bet! Here is a quick look at some of the unique challenges (and rewards) of homesteading for seniors.

Anyone who has done it will tell you that homesteading is hard work. But it can be especially challenging as you get older. Age takes a toll on your physical ability, and homesteading is a highly physical lifestyle. From tending livestock to hauling water and chopping wood, there are plenty of physical challenges to face on the homestead. When you’re in your senior years, these challenges become even greater.

However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done – or that it isn’t worth it.

As many elderly homesteaders will tell you, it’s the only lifestyle they can imagine. It may even bring a richness and purpose to the later years that many urban and suburban-dwelling seniors are lacking in today’s world…

Here’s how one senior describes living on the homestead as he ages:

Homesteading when you are almost 75 years old is hard and takes a toll on your body, but I wouldn’t change a thing. In my mind, I’m still 40 years old, but at the end of the day after cutting/splitting firewood, shoveling snow, or just working around our property, my joints and body tell me I’m clearly not 40 years old anymore and neither is my body.

Joints take a lot of punishment in working a mountain homestead like ours, but we are enjoying the benefits of all our hard work in spite of the persistent pain and soreness. To all those prospective readers who may just be getting the glimmer of a thought of doing the same, I would encourage you to go for it. I do not have one single regret, plus the journey is amazing and completely fulfilling.

Gardening Challenges

Perhaps the easiest task I perform is gardening, which is in itself a unique challenge at this elevation since we have voles, moles, chipmunks, ground squirrels, and other critters that want to eat much of what we plant. Through the use of enclosed garden boxes, we do manage to provide some vegetables on our table.

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Firewood is Especially Hard but Possible

Perhaps our biggest task each year is the cutting 9-12 cords of firewood. Initially it was all cut and split by hand, but in recent years, Carol has convinced me to use a log splitter, which is a time saver and far easier than splitting it all by hand.

Getting our firewood in for next winter is much harder than it used to be, since we have gotten older so we take frequent breaks and work slower. We have also designed a more efficient method of doing the task: I will cut a little at a time to store behind the woodshed for the  following winter. Next spring, I will make sure all the firewood is cut to length and then split it and resupply the woodshed.

By working that far ahead, we only have to process what is right at hand and hence be ready for the following winter. We usually cut the firewood in place and carry it to a trail where it is loaded onto our tractor and unloaded conveniently right behind the woodshed until it is needed.

Would I Change Anything?

I wouldn’t change a thing to keep up this lifestyle — physical limitations or not. I am very fortunate to have a wife/partner who is willing to help, and together, we manage to get the jobs done — albeit a little slower than we used to.

Constantly seeking to be self-sustaining is tough regardless of age or physical ability, but as in many things in life, it is the hard, never-ending work that actually serves to keep us more fit and able to continue to do it.

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