Friday, September 06, 2013

Prepping as you age

There is an uncomfortable fact of life that you can’t get around—if you are fortunate, you get old.  And getting old isn’t for sissies.

Each of us ages differently.  Some, like my great grandfather, are healthy and vital right up until they die, which in his case was at the age of 92.  Others, like my mother, live into their 80s by the grace of modern medicine and exist their last years in a fog of dementia, cared for by others, alive only because someone cares enough to care for them.

But no matter what, as you age, you will find limitations placing themselves upon you.  No matter how well you age, you will not be able to do at age 50 what you could do at age 25 (unless you're some sort of genetic freak like Jack LaLane).  Let’s use yours truly as an example.

Early in my prepping career, back when it was still called survivalism, my grand survival plan was an Alice pack of gear, a location in the woods and some ill-conceived “My Side of The Mountain”-ish thing.  Sad though that sounds at this point, it actually put me ahead of 99.99% of my peers.  Today, I have relatively extensive preps.  I have stored food, water, guns, ammo, medical supplies, commo gear, clothing, fuel, tools and all the other things that we see listed on the prep boards and web sites.  I have plans for a number of likely scenarios that might affect me and mine in our area.  I pay attention to the news.  I'm still ahead of 99.99% of my peers in being prepared.

But you know what I’m not anymore?  I’m not young.  Instead, I’m a late middle-aged guy with 3 chronic health issues.  I take a fist full of meds every day plus another fist full of nutritional supplements.  They do help.  However, levothyroxone is a damn poor substitute for what my now all-but-deceased thyroid gland used to produce.  So despite the doc’s best efforts, I can’t put out the level of effort I could even 10 years ago, and I fight to stay only overweight.

Plantar fasciitis sucks, but it is a relatively minor issue.  I just have to be careful of what shoes I buy and I have some hellishly expensive inserts for them.  Oh, and that 30 mile walk from work to home after the Carrington Event takes all the electronics and makes them go z-z-z-zt?  The one that I used to plan on taking 3 days max?  Well, now I allow for a week if I'm lucky.  My “get home” bag is a masterpiece of lightweight hiking art so that I can carry enough food to make the trek.

Migraines are the worst of it.  They suck the life from you.  They started 20+ years ago and are still on the upswing—I doubt I live long enough to see the downswing.  Right now I’m on two prophylactic meds and in a good week I’ll only have one.  Bad weeks I have one a day.  You really don’t want to hear about the really bad weeks; those are the ones where I actually miss work and wind up at the docs.

Yes, to some extent I’m anonymously whining on the Intertubz, but to a purpose, I hope.  As we age, we must take the limitations that come with age into account in our prepping.  Failure to do so will inevitably lead to a failure to survive.

Let’s look at some examples of how my plans have changed as my physical abilities have become more limited.

I live far too close to large metro areas for comfort in the event of a long-term grid-down scenario.  While it would be a wonderful thing to be James Rawles and be able to live in the middle of the Great Western Redoubt, I have to earn a living, and I do it in high tech.  It’s what I trained for and it is the only salable job skill I have at this point, my days of being able to sell myself as grunt labor being long over.  If you do high tech, you pretty much have to live near large concentrations of people; that’s where the jobs are.  I am not in a position to quit and move up into the back of beyond where the mutant ninja zombie cannibal bikers will theoretically never find me.

In an earlier time, several friends and I had a plan to escape to a very lightly inhabited area we knew of in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  With our campers and tow vehicles, we could take a rather astonishing amount of goods with us.  Yes, the idea depended on getting out before things got bad, but we knew the back roads from our days of motorcycling them when we were even younger.  We knew it was risky, but we felt the risk was manageable.  We paid careful attention to current events and had a set of defined criteria and triggers to tell us when it was time to bail.

However, time passed and things changed.  We moved around, changed jobs, had kids and got older.  That plan slowly fell by the wayside.  As far as I know, only I and one other still prep at all.

So, what I've done is to move as far out as I reasonably can; actually somewhat close to that last prepping friend.  My house is relatively defensible, and I’ve went rather heavily into guns and ammo.  (Not a bad thing; they've always been a hobby anyway.)  And I've made my peace that in extremis I will likely do a Horatius at the bridge and buy time to give my offspring a chance to escape.

Another example is food.  Once again, let’s look at that worst case scenario, the long-term grid-down nightmare.  We live on 1.25 acres.  Allowing for the area covered by the house, driveway and walkways, there’s roughly an acre that could be cultivated.  That’s plenty to feed my family if intensively cultivated, especially here in the South with our long growing seasons.

There’s only one tiny problem.  Of that acre, around 3/5 to ¾ is covered in fully mature yellow pine trees, 18-24” at the butt and 90’ plus tall.  They would make magnificent lumber to build a couple of houses from.  They would be a complete nightmare to remove by hand so we could garden that space and feed ourselves.  When I was a kid, my Dad did exactly that on a half-acre with a crosscut saw and axes.  It took a year of his and my mom’s weekends.  The trees were half the size, and my Dad and Mom were in the prime of their lives.

Enter power equipment.  Chainsaws, extra chains, bars, bar oil, gas, sharpening gear, chaps, cant hooks—everything you need to do some serious jacking of lumber.  All needed and used on a regular basis since we heat with wood.  (I have neighbors with lots of trees they want cut down, and I am happy to help them out and save on my electric bill.)   A large 4-wheeler and trailer to haul with.  Gas, oil and filters for same.  I really wish I had a sawmill, but I'll never get that past Mrs. Freeholder.  The plan is, as soon as it becomes obvious that the scent in the air is TS hitting TF to start clear cutting.  If I can sneak in a chainsaw mill, they'll turn into nice material for raised beds and defensive measures.  If not, lots of firewood.

How about simple home maintenance?  Yes Virginia, you will have to maintain your house after Armageddon.  As a matter of fact, it will be even more important, because you aren't going to be hopping in the car and running down to the local home improvement big box store to buy stuff to fix what breaks.

Back in the day, hopping up on the roof to clean the gutters wasn't that big a deal.  Get a ladder, grab your gloves and the leaf blower and git ‘er done.  Now, my sense of balance is compromised to some extent.  Being on the roof some days isn't a happening thing.

Two words—gutter guards.  I prefer the micro screen kind, but I’m dealing with pine needles.  If you just have leaves, almost any sort of screening works.  You will still need to get up there to inspect the roof, touch up the caulking and so forth, but it becomes a once a year thing.  Consider investing in fall protection gear, because the hospital is going to be closed, too.

How about sleeping after something untoward happens?  Old folks don’t generally sleep so well any way, and most houses built in the last 50 years, such as mine, were built to be air conditioned.  Our old deck was rapidly failing, so we had it pulled off (sorry, too damn old to consider taking on that project myself) and replaced with a smaller deck—and a large screened-in porch.  Ever hear of a sleeping porch?  Yeah, got one now.  At least I’ll be able to get some rest after the end of the world.  Sleep is important, and will be more so in a bad situation.  Sleep deprived people make bad decisions, and bad decisions can get you terminally dead.

These are some of the things where I have had to make adjustments so far.  I see others coming.  Handrails—I see handrails and grab bars in my future.  When we had the bathrooms renoed a couple of years ago we had blocking put in for just that reason.  Broken bones will not be a good thing after TEOTWAWKI.

Bear in mind that this is just me, my life, my situation, my adjustments.  You, your situation, your age, your health and your life will be different.  Just as someone in Florida will prep for different scenarios than someone in Arizona, the things that will affect you and the adjustments that you will need to make will be unique.  I hope you’re like my great grandfather, and live to be a vital old age and just kick off after a long and healthy life.  But if you wind up being more like me, I hope I've given you a few things to consider.

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