The Aging Prepper
by RH, Survival Blog
If you are reading this article, then you are aging. Obviously, the only way to escape aging is to pass on to the “other world”. So assuming that you are not reading this while comfortably seated in a recliner in the Happy Hunting Ground, let us have a discussion of aging and how it relates to the activity of prepping.
First, aging usually brings forth some diminished mental and physical abilities. Those past the age of say forty have probably noticed changes in eyesight and perhaps lessened strength and endurance. Balance and reflexes are probably not as keen as they were when we were teens or twenty-something.
Let’s face it; our memory is not as good as it was either. In the short-term, we may joke about it, but down deep we worry about the long-term effects of age-related dementia. This particular topic came to mind (pun intended) the other day when in one absent-minded episode I left the garden gate open and forgot to shut off the drip irrigation tube from a rain barrel. That day, my forgetfulness was a minor inconvenience, something to shake my head at and make me mutter to myself. After TSHTF, this lapse could be disastrous. The garden could be wiped out overnight by deer or other critters, and the waste of water from a rain barrel could very likely impact my survival.
In answer to my one-day lapse of judgement, I implemented a system of reminders to hopefully eliminate future “brain cramps”. Sure, I’m a note-writer, listing chores to do and assigning them priorities, but now I also use bright colored ribbons so I know at a glance if a task has been completed or not. Similar to lock out devices for safety in the industrial world, I tie a survey marker ribbon on the garden gate or the rain barrel spigot to remind me that the job is completed. I seem to remember that step in the process, and I don’t have to think “Did I remember to . . . ?”
After nearly driving out of my garage with a chain saw on my truck’s tailgate, I’ve employed a “tailgate in use” ribbon that I place over the steering wheel. I place the ribbon on the truck’s steering wheel when I’m working off the tailgate, and I remove it when I’m done. It’s easy peasy, and it prevents me from doing something stupid that might be costly.
All of this started me thinking of other things I should prepare for as I age. I began by assembling a notebook with suggestions I took from SurvivalBlog entries. My notebook has lots of information, including water purification techniques, copies of important paperwork, and contact lists, and it tells me at a glance what I have for food stores, precious metals, ammunition, and medical supplies. I don’t have to trust anything to my failing memory! The information in the notebook is backed up on a flash drive in my bug out bag.
First-aid and Medical Supplies
Anyone over fifty can tell you about aches, pains, symptoms, and so forth that can sneak up on you without notice. Maybe stocking some over-the-counter medications would be prudent. Start with age-appropriate multi-vitamins. Since you will be outside more and not in an air-conditioned house, maybe some antihistamines for worsening allergies. Chopping and splitting wood may be the rule of the day, so aspirin and NSAIDs will help with muscle aches.
Even if you currently eat what you store, there will still be a change in diet, so stockpiling some laxatives and other supplements could help. Something to control diarrhea is a must have. Think of the Civil War casualties that were caused by dysentery alone!
You will be working hard just to survive. Some of these situations may be risky or downright dangerous, so it is prudent to prepare for injuries. As a prepper, you should have already stocked first aid supplies, but have you considered recovery from a sprained ankle, a twisted knee, or even a broken femur? Maybe you should check the neighborhood garage sales and thrift shops for a pair of adjustable crutches that can be utilized while you or family members heal. The same thing goes for splints, support braces, and maybe even a wheelchair. I recently suffered from plantar fasciitis, and believe me it dramatically reduces one’s mobility. I was prescribed an adjustable boot splint that helped me heal and enabled me to walk. After my recovery, I kept the boot in case of future problems.
Tools to Ease the Burden
Your overall strength will most certainly diminish with age, and you won’t be able to rely on gasoline-powered implements and vehicles. Stock things like buckets, carts, and wheelbarrows to make life a bit easier for yourself. Also, consider pulleys, jacks, “come-alongs,” wire, wire cable, and rope for the very same reasons.
Whetstonesand files will keep your cutting instruments sharp. If they are sharp, they will be safer, and you won’t have to work as hard. You should already have crosscut saws, axes, splitting mauls, and wedges ready to go to work when the gasoline dries up.
With an eye toward fire safety, you will want to keep grass, weeds, and brush back away from your house, woodpile, barn, and other structures. There won’t be an organized fire response post-TEOTWAWKI, so perhaps sickles and scythes (with a sharp scythe blade) would help keep dry weeds and other vegetation at bay. Stock and mount fire extinguishers in likely places. You may not have pressurized water available, so the extinguishers become very important and enable you to fight a small fire before it gains in strength and size. You may not be physically able or have the endurance or equipment to fight a large fire.
Water will be of utmost importance, and it is heavy. As you get older, you will not want to carry water a long distance, if you can help it. I highly recommend installing rain barrels now, while materials are available. You can get the system working for watering vegetables in the garden now, and later you will be able to also utilize your catchment system for your consumption, bathing, and clothes washing needs. If rain water catchment is prohibited in your area, at least get the components now for a complete system to assemble after TSHTF.
Also consider saving thicker, quality, food-grade gallon jugs with handles. It is much easier to carry a gallon in each hand and make a couple of trips than to wrestle a 5-gallon container of water. Don’t forget a couple of steel water bottles and cooking pots for heating water for purification and cooking.
Speaking of hauling water, how about dish washing after TSHTF? At my age, I only want to haul the minimum amount of water, so dish washing becomes a very low priority. I have stockpiled paper plates, the good ones, for a time when I will only haul water for consumption purposes. While not considered “green alternative” right now, I can get lots of them inexpensively and store them forever. After I use them, they can be burned or dried and used to start the next cook fire, leaving no trace but smoke and ash.
Gardening will mean food. If you haven’t started at least a small patio garden yet, you should consider doing it very soon. You have probably read that there is a leaning curve associated with gardening, and that is very true. Even if you can garden successfully in South Carolina, there will be a learning period if you move to Idaho. Weather patterns, insect pests, soil types, and diseases constantly test your skill and knowledge. A vegetable can be doing well, and then overnight something can almost wipe it out of your garden!
Try to construct your garden to suit an older you so that you can keep gardening as you age. Consider raised beds and vertical gardening in order to ease back strain. Plan your rain catchment system to be close or connected to your garden to lessen watering trips. Small vegetable gardens close to your house may serve you better as you age rather than large gardens a tractor ride away. If you can, stock fertilizer and maybe insect control products.
A rolling compost bin may be a bit easier for you to handle than forking and turning over large conventional compost heaps. Some bins are even mounted on legs to eliminate all that bending over.
Optics and Health
Your failing eyesight might require good quality optics, like waterproof binoculars to identify threats at a distance. Long distance rifles should be fitted with scopes that can work in low light situations. While we are on the “optic topic”, get lots of reading glasses, and get them now! I have a pair in virtually every room in my house, my vehicles, my shop, my tackle box, and even in my bug out bag! Even if you don’t need them yet, buy bunches of inexpesive reading glasses in varying strengths. You will be glad you did when you can’t read, thread a fish hook or a sewing needle, or even tighten a screw without them. Extras will be great barter material, and the people who didn’t plan ahead will clamor for them.
Your eyes, teeth, and overall health should be checked soon. Fix any problems while you still have access to health care providers. I can’t imagine enduring a toothache without a dentist handy!
Threats to You, Your Family, and Your Property
The rules will change dramatically after TSHTF. As a prepper you have probably at least started a modest armory of weapons and ammunition. As I’ve gotten older, I have sold or traded beautiful, expensive, or unique “wall hanger” firearms for a narrow but deep armory that includes identical patrol rifles, identical home defense shotguns, and identical sidearms. These firearms span only four ammunition sizes, so I only have to stock those calibers. Having identical models helps with training and provides interchangeable parts. As a side note, don’t forget spare parts and cleaning supplies for your guns. These will quickly become scarce.
To summarize, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and plan for the future. In a survival situation, nature forces us older preppers to work smarter, not harder.