I became aware of the need for prepping too late to have the advantages associated with youth. Seniors are already dealing with issues of declining physical prowess, declining health and a growing sense of mortality. To add prepping to the list of concerns seemed more than a bit overwhelming but given the realities of our day, prepping slowly became an unavoidable necessity as I began to understand that the economic path on which our nation is traveling is clearly becoming unsustainable and is getting worse, not better.
There was also the additional concern – shared by preppers of any age – of convincing my dear wife that my fears were well-founded and that prepping was seriously necessary if we were to have a chance to survive TEOTWAWKI. So the first challenge to overcome when contemplating prepping as a senior is the same challenge as for younger preppers: Becoming convinced that there is serious trouble ahead that will likely destroy the support systems on which we have all become far too dependent.
For me, that reality began to come home to me as I watched the unfolding of the current administration’s agenda to abandon private enterprise as an economic model and move toward a more socialistic, European model. It still puzzles me that we can easily observe the disintegration of the economic well-being of European nations on our evening new broadcasts, and then decide to emulate them ourselves. Human nature is a strange thing! Regardless of the reasons, it became clear to me that there is no will to rectify the situation in Washington and that we are rushing pell-mell toward some sort of inevitable financial Armageddon. Therefore, the only reasonable path for me was to begin prepping in earnest despite my age of 66 years.
At first my wife was not open to the idea of prepping at all. Women don’t like their “nesting” instincts messed with and to assert that all that we have come to depend on (Social Security, pensions, health care systems, investments, and the like), might well come to an end in the reasonably near future, was and is very difficult for her to deal with. It was understandable. So, my initial efforts at raising her awareness consisted of providing a running commentary on the evening news. As things in Europe began to deteriorate into economic chaos, I would just point out that if we think that we are immune to such things here, we’d better think again! Then, when President Obama was re-elected for his second term, I turned to my wife and said, “Honey, I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but now we really do need to get serious about our prepping.” The economic mess that has been created was not going to be addressed by the Obama administration.
Reading was essential to my preparation for prepping. The first book that influenced me was 77 Days in September, by Ray Gorham. This was a tale of a man on a business trip to Houston whose plane crashed on take off due to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States. It chronicled his trip walking home to northwest Montana, and was a primer to cultural breakdown. Additionally, I read James Wesley Rawles, Patriots, which served as a wealth of resources for prepping and was a whopping good story. I couldn’t get my wife to read either one because they were both just too scary, but they helped me get prepping into focus for my family and I.
Another influence in raising my awareness was information from a friend of mine who subscribes to Richard Maybury’s Early Warning Report. Mr. Maybury is a combination historian and economist whose writings are both eloquent and pointed respecting how history intersects with economics and whose writings were often the stuff of Ron Paul campaign speeches on the topics. The subscription to Maybury’s publication is a bit pricey, but worth the investment.
My wife was still not really on board (the contemplation of economic chaos was just too unpleasant to deal with for her), so I determined that I would begin prepping on my own simply because it is my responsibility to provide for my wife, (our daughter is grown and gone), whether or not she approved of my efforts and would willingly suffer whatever consequences may come from that.
As retired senior citizens, there are things to be considered in prepping that younger people don’t need to consider to the same degree. Living in the wilderness at a remote retreat simply isn’t as realistic an option for seniors no matter how tempting that choice may be. Health care needs especially come into play and the effort it takes for relocation to such locales is almost beyond our emotional and physical abilities. This was particularly complicated for us because after 40 years of married life, we had finally retired and moved to our retirement home in northern Colorado, near Fort Collins. We had often joked that the next box out of our house had better have one of us in it! So for us (and I believe for most senior citizens), prepping is a “bug in” proposition.
We have some things going for us in our location. We live in a small town of about 3,000 people. It is mostly a bedroom community for Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley, Colorado. Additionally, we are not next to I-25 but about several miles east of that major thoroughfare. We are about an hour north of Denver which is a cause for some concern, but are hopeful that most desperate refugees would turn west from I-25 toward Fort Collins rather than east toward the open prairies. Our community is likely small enough to get organized, but I don’t see that happening until the proverbial stuff hits the fan and they are forced to do so.
The problem with a bedroom community is that it doesn’t really see itself as a community to any great degree so it will be necessary to try to identify some like-minded folks prior to the collapse to form a cadre of leadership with which to offer our community some guidance whenever things “go south”. It will be a difficult place to defend as we sit out on the prairie with the usual mile section grids that come with that. Additionally, while some natural water sources are present, most are connected to irrigation canals, reservoirs, and the like, while the municipal water supply is connected to a water tower which requires electricity to pump water into it. Water is always a big issue when you live in the rain shadow of the Rockies. Therefore, I have begun to store water in larger quantities in house and garage.
With respect to food preparation, I have convinced my wife that having a year’s supply of food is just a practical thing to do if there is any chance that things could get rough – the Social Security and pension checks could stop coming, and the panic following an economic collapse might quickly empty the grocery store shelves. So I opted for a two-pronged approach. First, there was the purchase of some long-term foods that stored essentially longer than I am likely to stay alive. Here I examined the “Mormon Four”: wheat, honey/sugar, dry milk, and salt. These were basic staples that may not be all that tasty, would keep us alive and I wouldn’t need to worry about expiration dates except for the dry milk. There are some local grain elevators near us who sell wheat in bulk, but the grain has not been thoroughly cleaned and my wife wasn’t very excited about that. So the best source I could find for nice, clean wheat for the price was at www.store.lds.org. I am not a Mormon, but I do recognize that these folks likely know more about food storage than just about anyone out there. So 600 lbs. of wheat was ordered (hard red, and hard white) and stored away for safekeeping. Likewise, a hand grain mill was ordered. It will give you a workout, but it nicely converts wheat to useable flour. I purchased a Wonder Mill Jr., grain mill from www.onlygrainmills.com, and it works just fine. Additionally, quantities of salt, sugar/honey, and dry milk were purchased and stored in the usual white buckets, but since my wife can’t open the usual plastic lids on the buckets, I opted for splurging on some gamma lids that seal nicely, but unscrew for easy access. Arthritis takes it toll!
The second prong of my food preps involved the purchasing of food items from Sam’s Club, and the local grocery stores with emphasis being given to acquiring a year’s supply of such goods and using them on a first purchased, first eaten rotational basis. We built some storage closets in our basement, installed shelving, and stocked them full of goods paying attention, whenever possible, to finding items with extended expiration dates. We have also planted three raised gardens in our back yard to produce as much produce on our own as we can and have purchased long-term, heritage seeds to keep for the future.
The next real life senior concern to be addressed was prescription drugs. Both my wife and I are on cholesterol statin drugs, and blood pressure medication as are nearly every elderly couple I know. What to do about that? Here I want to carefully evaluate how seriously we need these medications and seek to acquire a surplus of them. If possible I hope to convince my doctor to prescribe a years supply of these medications. If he refuses, then it is my plan to see how much of the medications I can take and still not see a significant jump in either my cholesterol “score” or my blood pressure. Perhaps I can take the meds every other day or every third day instead of daily and save the rest. Failing to succeed in those efforts means that when things get serious and no further prescriptions can be obtained, then I will take whatever prescription medications I have and cut them in half. Then I will take half of those cut in half, and cut them in half again. The object is to wean myself off of them gradually rather than take them as prescribed and then stop cold turkey. Blood pressure medications and cholesterol drugs are preventative meds, thus, it simply may become necessary to let things play out as they will if they become unavailable.
In addition to medications, the elderly need to consider establishing a circle of friends and/or family who live in close proximity. Eventually, us old folks get so old that we just can’t get things done on our own. I’ve walked through these things with my own parents so I know what I am speaking about first hand. Aging is simply one of the most challenging aspects of life and there is no such thing as the “Golden Years”. Death does not scare me nor does it frighten my wife. We are Christian people (I am a retired Lutheran pastor), and we know exactly where we are headed when we die and frankly can’t wait to make the trip! What doesn’t excite us is the process of dying. If we end up in a situation in which the usual artificial supports (medications, hospitals, doctors, and such) are not available, we know that we will die sooner rather than later. If that is the case, then so be it! The cadre of family and/or friends near by is simply what people have always done in the past to care for those who can’t care for themselves until they go home to be with the Lord.
Older people are not just a drag on others, however. We have an array of skills, knowledge, and understanding of an age when electronics didn’t even exist, when we burned our own trash in the back yard, and by and large took care of ourselves and others without the government having much to say about it. Those are precisely the skills that communities that are cooperating in surviving need to know. Additionally, there is a difference between being older and being decrepit. I am old, not decrepit. I can work a full day, shoot straight, and think clearly. Until the day comes when such things are no longer possible for me, then I can be a productive member of any survival community.
With preppers of every age, however, I hope and pray daily that all of this preparation isn’t needed. However, I will continue to be ready just in case it is.