Monday 24 April, 2017

Will My Age Be An Issue?

hammockEvery now and again here in the WWOOF office we receive correspondence from an “older” person who is keen to go WWOOFing but is concerned that it is a young persons game. The questions are “Will I be able to meet the physical demands of work on a WWOOF Farm and will the hosts still want me if I‘m over 50″? Our reply is a resounding “absolutely!”

In order to quell some fears I emailed a few hosts and

WWOOFers to hear about their experiences of WWOOFing in the “older” age bracket. Of all the feedback I received there was not one negative comment in relation to the older age of a WWOOFer. Infact one host told me he only takes WWOOFers over 30 as age brings experience and a good work ethic(no offence to those WWOOFers in the younger age groups).

So why are hosts still happy to have you if you were born before the first James Bond film was released? Well from what I’ve been told you older WWOOFers have a great deal of knowledge, wisdom and experience to share, a great work ethic, are more easy-going and work harder then a lot of the younger folk! A host commented on one of his ‘older’ WWOOFers “she was their oldest but wisest and one of their most fun woofers EVER“.

My parents are both in their late 60’s and I know they could out-work me around the farm – if I let them. Those who have owned property and/or had their own families are also very aware of how much work needs to be done on a daily basis and that it doesn’t stop when you step inside. Most older WWOOFers don’t need to be asked to help out with meals and dishes at the end of the day, or to occupy the kids while you get on with a chore. Apparently older WWOOFers are also better at occupying themselves in the evenings and in their time out.

It may be that you get a little stiffness in the limbs or can’t lug heavy items around the place, but all of us can suffer from a physical ailment no matter what our age. The most important thing is that you let hosts know any limitations in your initial contact and communication. Your host will have a good idea of the work they want help with and if any physical issues are going to be a problem. The host can then politely let you know that their farm is not really suitable for you and you can continue your search else where.

On most farms there will always be chores you can do that don’t require hard physical labour. If you just need a day out from heavy work let your host know and offer some alternatives. I know I’m always happy to have a WWOOFer cook up some meals for the freezer, take my kids off for a mornings adventure in the hills, tinker with my car or make up seedling containers. These are all jobs that need to be done to keep the farm running and if a WWOOFer is happy to do them I’m always happy to get out of the house for a while and get my body working again!

Another advantage of the older WWOOFer is that they may have loads of great skills and experience they can share. I don’t think it matters how long you’ve been farming, there is always room to learn new things, and it may just be that ‘older’ WWOOFer who knows a great little trick to save a hosts time and energy. In recent years we have lost so many skills that our mothers and fathers knew as common sense. The older generation can help us tap into that knowledge and pass it on to our children. An ‘older’ WWOOF couple remarked “we recommend wwoofing for older people as we know we have skills to share also, so go for it, age is no barrier“. Just remember to be gentle when giving advice, sometimes it is hard to take from a new comer no matter how much older they are!

It can also be fascinating and inspiring to listen to the stories and life experiences of older WWOOFers. The world was quite a different place not so long ago and I’ve heard tales of amazing adventures in lands we cannot travel into anymore.

The place to start sharing your gifts is your profile page. One of our ‘older’ WWOOFers told me that she does not list her age but lets her experience and family status indicate that she is in the older age bracket. Then she goes on to list all the things she can do to help around your property – from childcare and education, to milking cows, bottling produce, feeding animals and working in the vege garden. What more could a host want?!

When looking for a host search for keywords that interest you such as vineyards, milking, butchering, home schooling, woodwork etc. Then write requests specific to each host explaining why you would like to WWOOF with them, what you want to learn and what you could help with. From the feedback I’ve received no WWOOFer has ever been turned down because they are ’too old’.

The one important fact that has been reiterated by WWOOFers and Hosts time and time again is to be honest and open right from the start. Let the host know what you expect, what you want to learn, what you can and cannot do and any limitations in your first email/communication with the host. It is better to be told that the property/work is not suitable for you in an email then to turn up and have all expectations fall down when both you and your host realise that their place is not the right place for you. This can lead to uncomfortable situations and hurt feelings that are easily avoided with honesty right from the get go. There are so many different types of WWOOF hosts with different needs that you are sure to find a place suited to you and your requirements.

So if you are an ‘older’ WWOOFer don’t focus so much on what you can’t do, and list all the things you can. Remember that age is just a state of mind. WWOOF is about Willing Workers on Organic Farms, and being “willing” is the key. Be willing to try your hand at anything, be willing to muck in where needed, be willing to give a little extra sometimes, be willing to accommodate new ideas and situations, be willing to adjust and adapt, be willing to have a laugh at yourself, be willing to be challenged and you’ll be as great a WWOOFer at 62 as you might have been at 26.

From my perspective as a host, age really doesn’t make a lot of difference – what makes the difference is what is driving the person to wwoof and how interested they are in what is going on. I’ve had enriching experiences with wwoofers of all ages.” – WWOOF Host NZ

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