Every living thing ages over time. This is as true for plants, as it is for people. Even the giant redwoods and sequoias of California age over their prolonged lifetimes.
Fruit trees are not forever. While fruit trees can live and bear fruit for many years. As they age their vegetative structures become complex and their investment in wood increases. Because this wood needs to be maintained there are fewer resources that can be put into producing high yields of quality fruit.
Fruit trees that are older than perhaps 25 years are at or near the end of their best productive lives. If you have old fruit trees in your yard I suggest developing a plan to replace them with new trees. Why should you do this? Cultivars improve over time. Try something new that you see at a garden center or in a mail order nursery. The trees may produce better fruit than you’ve ever had before. Apple trees can be obtained on dwarfing rootstocks. These trees take up much less room than older trees. They are also easier to prune, spray and harvest. Ladders are hard to works with and are potentially dangerous.
You can plant new trees in better locations that may be more appropriate for your current landscape plans. Develop a new succession plan for your old fruit trees. Plant new trees this spring in preparation for removing old trees after two to four years. While this may be painful in the short run, in the long run, you’ll get better quality fruit with less work.