[dropcap]P[/dropcap]repping with senior citizens poses some challenges, and may benefits as well. An elderly person may no longer be able to physically contribute heavily to the manual labor required on a sustainable prepper retreat, but her or she possess decades of knowledge and skills that can help guide the physical, mental, and emotional preparedness of the family to enhance their overall chances of survival.
Determining what exactly defines a senior citizen can be a bit tricky. Gone are the days when a grandma was always a little old woman with gray hair. Today, thanks to modern medicine and the increased longevity of our population, many mamaws and papaws are exceptionally physically fit and leading extremely productive lives – chopping wood is a breeze for some men well into their sixties. A group of riding grandmas at a horse camp I frequent are still saddling their own horses and hitting rugged trails even though some are now at least 70 years old!
But, not every senior citizen has been blessed with ample good health. Life will not be easy during a long-term disaster, and it will likely be substantially harder for the very old and people with disabilities.
This article will address the prepping needs of three different types of senior citizens: the “I’m not ready for the rocking chair yet, but I don’t run three miles a day on the treadmill anymore either,” crowd, relatively healthy and mobile senior citizens who will ride out the apocalypse with their self-reliant loved ones, and the elderly who live in a nursing home who will have to make it on their own until a loved one can reach them after the SHTF.
Senior Citizen Medical Preps
The medical aspect of prepping is generally the most difficult for ever family focused on developing a comprehensive self-reliance plan that will help them survive a doomsday disaster. The physical needs that must be addressed without the aid of professional care givers in increased tenfold when the SHTF health planning also includes senior citizens or loved ones with a chronic medical condition.
The daily medical needs of an elderly person (and basically anyone of any age who requires constant medication) will be a massive hurdle during a SHTF scenario.
Stockpiling as much prescription as the laws allow is the first step – but the doctors, insurance companies, and pharmacies will not be sympathetic to your desire to prep for a coming doomsday disaster.
Senior citizens and their loved ones should speak with their doctors to develop a plan for weaning of prescription medications and utilizing natural or over-the-counter medications as substitutes during a long-term disaster.
Be prepared for a shocked or disapproving reaction from the medical professional, but do not allow rudeness or mocking of your SHTF planning deter you from accomplishing this important survival goal.
In some cases, over-the-counter variations of prescription medicines could be readily available and affordable. Vitamins that can help strengthen the body against some health woes also exist and could help keep the senior citizens, and the rest of the family, in optimal health.
Some of the needed medications might need to be kept cool, like insulin, which poses another SHTF medical preps hurdle. The power grid will undoubtedly fail during nearly every type of long-term disaster.
Your survival plan must include some type of off-grid refrigeration option if keeping a stockpile of medications below room temperature is necessary. Building an “ice house” using Styrofoam padded doors and walls and buckets with firm-fitting lids that contain frozen water, is one low-cost option for an off the grid refrigeration unit.
Stockpiling fuel for a generator to keep a refrigerator running will run out eventually, invest in a solar generator when the prepping budget permits to expand your power options during a long-term disaster.
Senior citizens living and prepping on their own will find solar generators to lightweight enough to maneuver and negate the need to stockpile heavy cans of fuel that must be carried and held while poured.
Growing your own apothecary is another valuable and long-term option for enhancing medical care options for senior citizens, and the entire family as well. You will be both the first responder and the emergency room after the SHTF.
Full-on gardening might be too much of a chore for some senior citizens, but growing an apothecary and crops in containers and vertically in barrels on in pallets attached to both external and interior walls reduces the manual labor required to cultivate plants substantially.
Many preppers plan on using fish and livestock medications, that can be purchased without a prescription, as an alternative to human doctor-prescribed antibiotics and medications. This could be a high risk, but potentially high reward scenario that should involve both intense research and as much professional advice as possible before undertaking.
Increasing your first aid skills should be at the top of the preparedness training schedule. Learn as much about the current health issues your seniors are dealing with now, and are likely to occur in the future to better prepare how to both maintain current health and treat medical problems when they arise.
Medical equipment should be stockpiled as well. Wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, oxygen tanks, and adult diapers may become essential on the survival retreat to care for a senior citizens, a loved one with a disability, or mutual assistance group member of any age that becomes sick or injured.
Senior citizens should develop a daily physical fitness regime to bolster their energy levels and muscle mass. The exercise routine does not need to be strenuous, or even completed while standing, to help the body grow stronger. A plethora of free or low-cost online and in-person exercise programs for both male and female seniors exist.
Mental Preparedness for Senior Citizens
Memory exercises should also be included in the daily prepping routine for senior citizens. Keeping the mind sharp now will help it remain so when the stress and possible changes in medication, intrude heavily on daily life during a SHTF scenario.
Reading or listening to books and watching videos related to survival and homesteading skill building will help keep the mind alert and focused on learning as much as possible about ways to contribute on the prepper retreat during a disaster.
If the senior citizen loved on has developed memory problems, make photo books to help them remember or learn the many faces they will be seeing on the prepper retreat when everyone gathers together during the disaster. Picture books can also be used to help acquaint the elderly family member with what will become their new surroundings.
Add chamomile to your backyard apothecary and learn how to turn it into a delicious and anti-anxiety tea that will be enjoyed by an agitated or confused senior citizen (again, or anyone of any age) while it helps calm their nerves and alleviate stress.
Everyone Has A Job To Do….
Everyone, if they were raised right, will feel the need to contribute and be a vital part of the family or group. Tap into the years of knowledge the senior citizens in your family possess before the SHTF to harness it to the full potential. Even if the loved one can no longer climb under a vehicle or tractor to work on a problem, he or she can teach others to complete such necessary work.
There will be many jobs inside a home and on a survival compound that do not require heavy lifting or extensive time spent standing. Any time senior citizen can be placed in charge of a chore, the younger and more able-bodied adult who was tasked with the cooking, child care, communications, laundry, canning, etc. duty, can be redirected to a more strenuous activity, like perimeter control, harvesting crops, or chopping wood.
Senior Citizen Self-Defense
The elderly far too often become easy targets for attackers. Senior citizens living and prepping on their own will have to be hyper-vigilant when going outdoors to complete during a long-term disaster.
Senior citizens with a military, law enforcement background, or who simply grew up in the country will have a distinct edge over their peers who have never fired a gun before the SHTF.
Even if you no longer have the vision and physical capability to hold a heavy rifle, or to win a hand-to-hand combat situation, you will never be a sitting duck if you can shoot, will shoot, and continue to practice to shoot a firearm.
Weight of the gun and the recoil should be taken into consideration when prepping to defend yourself and your home. Missing or getting injured after squeezing the trigger is not going to produce the desired outcome.
The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is extremely lightweight, barely has any kick to it, is simple to use and clean, and most models come equipped to accept both a scope and a bi-pod attachment.
The AR-15 is often described as the perfect rifle for the ladies because of the features note above and due to the highly accurate nature of most moderately priced models.
A .22 caliber rifle is another viable option for senior citizen SHTF self-defense. Even though it is a low-caliber rifle, it is still deadly when placed in practiced hands. The youth model is even more lightweight and is often favored by short-statured folks and women because an extensive reach is not required to operate the rifle effectively. Even most youth models can accept a scope.
During a SHTF scenario, you do not want to let any potential attackers to get close enough to you that a handgun will be necessary – but you want to own and practice with one until you are proficient anyway. A .22 caliber handgun, like the rifle of the same caliber, will stop an attacker if your aim is accurate.
When relying on a lower caliber gun to save your life, be prepared to empty your entire magazine and do so quickly and without hesitation. A .22 round to the the arm, leg, or shoulder will simply not be enough to stop a determined attacker equipped with a far more substantial firearm or who is wearing body armor.
Meat, Heat, And Cooking
Senior citizens who grew up hunting may no longer be able to exercise their expertise at that valuable skill at age 75. The same can be said for retired farmers who were once easily capable of running a herd of cattle and butchering their own meat.
To supplement the food stockpiled and grown in containers, flower bed gardens, and vertically, many senior citizens preppers should be able to keep small livestock as a source of meat and protein.
Cultivating a small flock of chickens or ducks for eggs and meat will not require strenuous physical labor. Killing and butchering the birds does not require a lot of bodily might either. Plucking machines, but manual and automated varieties, speed the butchering process along substantially.
Rabbits are another low-energy small livestock option for elderly preppers. They take up little space in the backyard to raise, are lightweight, and can be butchered in about 20 minutes even by a novice.
Nigerian dwarf goats are primarily considered a dairy goat and are small enough and demure enough that 4-H members as young as eight regularly take them as projects to the fair.
A backyard garden pond dug to at least 4-feet deep can be stocked with fish to catch as an additional easy-access and low-energy food source during a doomsday disaster scenario, as well.
Heat and Cooking
Pellet woodstoves may be the best heat source option for senior citizen preppers. The cast iron stoves will heat the home and be used as a cook surface. Pellets can be purchased in bulk bags in both brick-and-mortar stores and online – and delivered right to your doorstep.
Using pellets to fuel the woodstove negates the need to chop and split your own firewood or go outdoors unnecessarily to retrieve purchased wood from a pile.
It is always recommended to have more than one source for heat and power.
Solar generators and solar panels also offer a power source for home heating and cooking purposes. A toaster oven should not put too much of a drain on even a medium-sized solar generator during cold weather months and could be used as a backup cook source.
Nursing Home Preparedness
If your senior citizen loved one lives in a nursing home, volunteer to teach a class related to a prepping skill at the facility. Growing a garden at nursing facility and setting up window area growing spaces to increase the amount of food on hand, is a great place to start.
Many of the senior citizens, especially if the nursing home is in a rural area, likely grew and canned at least some of their groceries during their younger years. Helping the residents to water bath can food and teaching the skill to interested staffers is a win-win for all of the elderly residents – and may even spark an interest in self-reliance among their care givers.
Go one step further and reach out to nursing home staff to help develop a viable disaster preparedness plan for the facility to help ensure the safety of those who live and work there until help or loved ones, can arrive.
The photo books noted above can be used to help staffers at a nursing facility be able to care for the senior citizen if access to computerized information is not longer accessible.
A photo of responsible family members and their contact information, along with a current list of prescription medications and other health related information, should be included for quick and easy reference.
Make sure to alert staff to the nature and placement of the emergency care and family contact information book and remind them routinely during your visits to the nursing facility.
Nursing home rooms are not typically large and sometimes share spaces. But, just because storage space is limited, does not mean your elderly loved one cannot stockpile some preps.
Use under the bed space to store two cases of water and two buckets of long-term storage food that can be consumed by simply adding hot water and stirring.
Grocery items with a long shelf life like peanut butter, beef jerky, crackers, cans of soup, etc. should also be tucked away in any available space inside the senior citizen’s room.
Nursing Home Survival Kit
- Purchase some lightweight and inexpensive solar lights that can be used like a flashlight when the power goes out at the nursing home. A flashlight is fine too, of course, but getting the end open and putting batteries in properly, especially when in a worried state, may be too difficult for some senior citizens.
- Purchase multiple Mylar emergency blankets and several solar powered fans so the elderly loved one can be kept comfortable despite outside weather conditions if the nursing home facility loses power. Single-use hand warmers and ice packs should also be placed in the survival kit.
- Adult diapers
- A magnifying glass, non-prescription reading glasses, and an extra pair of prescription glasses.
- Self-defense items. The type of weapon will depend both on the senior citizen’s mental and physical capabilities and the rules of the nursing home. Mace, brass knuckles, a screw driver, and a knife might be viable options.
- Bartering – During a disaster, the nursing home staff will also want to get home to their loved ones, if at all possible. The longer it takes to reach and remove the loved one from the nursing home, the more danger they are in – and more likely it is that their survival kit and stockpile of essential goods will be stolen by other residents or even staffers. Consider entering in an arrangement with a caregiver who routinely works on each shift. You can offer the person and their family a place at your retreat or survival supplies if they look after keep you loved one until you can reach the facility – or even to have the staffer bring the elderly family member to a designated meeting spot, if you feel such a massive amount of trust can be placed in the individual.
Senior Citizen Mutual Assistance Groups
There is safety in numbers. Trying to survive as a single person or as a couple would require excellent health, a multitude of skills, a solid home base, and a budget that makes stockpiling a massive amount of food and gear, possible.
Be pro-active and network with other senior citizens to form your own mutual assistance group if not bugging in with extended family. Being a lone prepper is just not a truly viable option for most anyone, regardless of age. Watch duty will need to be a round-the-clock chore during a SHTF scenario.
The more dependable and like-minded folks inside a residence, retirement community, or nursing home that are engaged in preparedness activities, the better the odds are that each will survive the disaster.
Being forced to bug out, especially on foot, has to be a top concern for senior preppers. Reducing the possibility of being forced to leave the home can best be achieved by inviting others to join in a combined survival effort.
Senior citizens should make a checklist of their skills, if prepping alone without the aid of family and search for a mutual assistance in their area to join. Older adults will not be a liability for the survival group.
They were born during an era where hard work was not just valued, but expected and long before either technology or the government took such extensive control of all our lives.
The skills older folks accrued over their lifetime will be exactly the type of expertise that is needed not just during, but after a SHTF disaster when it becomes the responsibility of younger Americans to rebuilt this country.
Only a foolish mutual assistance group will not see the benefit of including individuals with valuable skills and experience, even though they may be lacking the physical prowess to actively participate in actions that require heavy manual labor. Older does not necessarily mean weaker, not where it will count the most.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.