Ageing on farm: John Richards Oration

Growing old on the land can bring a range of health, environmental and social challenges.

With the average age of farmers older than most other industries, La Trobe University’s John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research is helping the farming community to navigate these challenges at its annual Oration, Ageing on Farm.

The Oration will be held at La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga campus on Wednesday 25 October, and involves an expert panel who will draw on research and lived experience on the topic.

Dr Clare Wilding, panelist and La Trobe researcher, said the primary challenge for farmers, as for all older people, is to continue doing the things they want to do when their abilities change.

“For farmers, these changes can be more difficult to manage due to living in isolated locations with reduced access to services, like shopping and healthcare, and reduced social contact with others,” Dr Wilding said.

“There may also need to be changes to the way the farmer farms, such as accepting additional support from others or using assistive equipment. Climate change is another consideration for older farmers.

Professor Lauren Rickards, an expert in climate change adaptation at La Trobe University, said the key challenge is the time frame of investments.

“While some older farmers may not be willing or able to make these investments, for others their experience and stage of life is an advantage – helping them question assumptions and try different approaches, drawing on lessons learned and peer networks,” Professor Rickards said.

Dr Wilding said the Oration aims to provide the community and policy makers with advice on some of the big questions facing older farmers. “Our fundamental goal is to support older farmers to age ‘in place’; that is on their farm,” Dr Wilding said.

“It’s important for their health as it maintains connections to their past, community, the land, and of course, an occupation that continues to give meaning to their lives.”

The Oration is the first since Yarrawonga businessman, community leader and philanthropist John Richards OAM passed away.

The topic was chosen based on John’s interest in improving the lives and livelihoods of older farmers.

The State Trustees Australia has recently granted the John Richards Centre more than $510,000 towards a project to improve age-friendly health care literacy.

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