The increasing age of U.S. farmers, coupled with health challenges as age advances, create a high-risk work environment for older farmers. A preliminary study noted that the farm community desires to learn from each other, using stories and humor, rather than from age-based guidelines or brochures. A novel intervention, didactic readers theater is being tested among farm communities in the Southeast U.S. with farm couples ages 45 and over.
The investigators partner with local agricultural communities to develop and deliver the theater. Communities in Kentucky and Tennessee are recruited to participate as either theater sites or educational materials sites (comparison group). The research team works in tandem with the community to promote the project. For theater sites, scripts are written based on local context and language, then delivered by members of the farm community with the researcher leading brief discussions between “plays.” Common topics include fatigue, falls, multi-tasking, arthritis, hearing loss, and stress. Educational packets are mailed to persons participating in the comparison group. Couples are recruited when possible to promote communication and action. Both groups receive telephone surveys two weeks and two months after the interventions to assess changes in behaviors.
This novel approach — touted by the communities as Farm Dinner Theater or “Date Night” — seems to be an acceptable venue for learning about health and safety. The end result of this project is to produce a community toolkit so each community can develop its own theater. This approach also has application to many other groups and ages and may be particularly applicable to areas with low literacy or ESL groups.