Long-term Prepping As We Age

I believe that I’ve mentioned elsewhere that my earliest interest in preparedness was started by reading books like The Swiss Family Robinson and My Side of the Mountain as a young teenager. While entertaining, I can look back now and see how unrealistic they were.

One thing both books had in common is that they put one person or a small group in a situation where they had to plan for long-term survival with little or no help from outside. They had whatever supplies they had with them, whatever they could find in the environment around them and that was pretty much it. At least in My Side of the Mountain Sam, the teenage protagonist, has some help from the local librarian and access to the local town.

In my early years, say late teens and early 20s, I was in the mode of “I’ll take my backpack of stuff and restart civilization on my own in the woods.” Ye flippin’ gods I was ignorant in those days. Thankfully I never had to actually do any actual surviving.

For some years after that, I was a lapsed survivalist. But my work in Y2K remediation opened my eyes to just how fragile our civilization could be, and I, like a lot of others, started to prepare just in case all our efforts came to naught. Fortunately, we were good at our work and with the exception of minor and easily overcome glitches, Y2K went down in history as a footnote in terms of disasters.

The door, once opened, didn’t close. I had a wife and small children, and it was my duty to take care of them no matter what the situation. Despite Mrs. Freeholder’s skepticism, I began building stocks of “beans, bullets and band-aids”. Over the years, a number of things crossed our path that brought her to the point of view that at least some of those preparations were not such a bad idea after all, but she has never been completely on board with the concept of preparedness.

In my own planning, I’ve never thought that preparing for a single scenario was a great idea. I have no problem looking at the disasters that are most likely to befall you as starting points, but my prime thought has been that if you design your preparations (and for that matter, your life) for resiliency and depth, redundantly covering the basic needs, you should be able to ride out any situation that can be ridden out. Even now, as I have to reconsider what is and isn’t possible as we age, I still think that is a sound methodology.

So, as we age and find ourselves with fewer birthdays left to celebrate than we have celebrated, how, if at all, should our view of prepping change? So far I see four big areas to consider.

First, as we age, we are more likely to develop a chronic medical condition. Generally, these will make the sufferer dependent on some form of modern medicine, such as drugs, either to function normally or to function at all. I’ve mentioned my own problem, hypothyroidism. When I run out of my stockpiled thyroid hormone supplement, I’ll be next to useless in a month or so. Others, such as those dependent on blood pressure or heart regulation meds, will die in days or weeks when their supply runs out. Still others, dependent on drugs for mental stability, will become dangers to themselves or others shortly after their supply runs out.

Second, even without a chronic medical condition, as we age we are less able to put out the large amounts of physical effort that a full grid-down scenario would require. Everything that we have machines to help with now will have to be accomplished by muscle power if the grid is down. Even those among us who are “genetic freaks” and who have aged remarkably well will eventually show the strain. For that matter, so will even the best conditioned 25 year olds.

Third, disease will be another big area of concern, since as we age our immune system becomes less able to fight off invaders. While they’re available, get immunizations such as shingles and pneumonia, and keep your tetanus booster up to date. If an event occurs, careful attention to hygiene will be necessary for both young and old in order to prevent disease and its spread. Cleanliness will truly be next to Godliness. Lastly, quarantine will become necessary and common once again when a communicable illness strikes.

Fourth, age effects us mentally. We are less able to learn new things, less mentally agile and overall slower mentally. Our reflexes also slow down. These things can be offset to some extent by various sorts of mental exercises, exposure to new situations and possibly dietary supplements. This does not even address the various cognitive disorders that can arise with age, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. While this is much further down the list of concerns, it may be the most frightening in a long-term scenario, because it will generally be untreatable.

Survival, especially in a long-term scenario, is hard work at any age, but most challenging for those over 40 or 45. Every author or thinker who has considered the subject in depth has predicted that the death rate in the over 50 age group in a long-term survival scenario will approach 100% within a year’s time. I agree that without strong efforts on the part of preppers that this will probably occur, and in my particular situation is why I am no longer planning for long-term scenarios. I can’t make it and knowing Mrs. Freeholder as I do, she probably won’t either. It’s a sad conclusion to reach, but fortunately I don’t think our chances of seeing one of those scenarios occur is very great. My planning is concentrating on being able to survive something like a long-term socio-economic slump on terms of the Great Depression plus.

For those who are not in the same situation as we are, this is the best reason to build your community of friends who can be counted on in an emergency now. A mix of ages, sexes and skills, and within reason, a larger rather than smaller group that is physically located near each other will be the best asset to be had if things get really bad. Even in a long-term “slide” scenario, I believe this will still give you the best chance to make it to the other side. You can have all the beans, bullets and band-aids you want, but without people, I don’t think they’ll be useful.

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