One of the reasons why there is no "one size fits all" solution for survival, is that no two survival situations are alike. But that's nothing compared to the fact there is no "one size fits all" survivalist. Each of us is an individual and each of us has our own circumstances to worry about. While there may be a considerable amount of similarity across the board, there are always special circumstances that each of us must consider how we'll deal with.
As I grow older, I've had to change many of my attitudes about survival. Part of that is because my start in survival came when I was young and single. Through the years I married and had a family. This required changes to my plans, my methods and even my attitude about survival. But it wasn't a one-time change. As my children grew, their ability to participate grew too. That caused still further changes.
But probably the biggest changes in my thinking have happened since my children have grown up and left home. Yes, their absence had something to do with that change, but the bigger part in making me change my thinking has been the changes in me. As I age, I find that I'm not as spry, not as strong and not as pain-free as I was as a younger man. Age is slowly catching up with me and my survival planning is being forced to accommodate it.
Granted, I'm not that old yet. I can still get around on my own two feet and I can still shoot a one-inch group with my favorite sidearm. So, I'm not helpless yet. But the changes I'm seeing in my body, bode poorly for the future. I can't ignore them; especially since they will affect my survival plans for the future.
Seniors probably have the toughest survival planning of anyone. They're at a point in their lives, where they may not be able to depend on their bodies, like they could when they were younger. But unlike children, they can't count on their parents to do things for them. So, while they are responsible for themselves, they may not be as capable as they were before.
Of course, each of us have to evaluate our own capability for ourselves. As part of that, we should be looking towards the future and what our needs and ability will most likely be in the future. Maybe you can still do everything for yourself, like I can. But the day may very well come when you and I can't do everything for ourselves. That's what we need to plan for, not just what we are capable of doing today. Anything else would essentially deny what it means to be a prepper.
Seniors and Survival Groups
One of the best possible survival solutions for any senior is to become part of a survival group. If you aren't familiar with these, they are groups of like-minded individuals, who have made an agreement to work together in their prepping, as well as survive together, when the time comes.
Actually, survival groups are great for anyone, not just seniors. The lone-wolf survivalist is likely to become an endangered species. While the reality shows where some survival guru pits himself against the wild are entertaining and even educational at times, surviving by yourself is much harder than surviving as part of a group. When you're by yourself, you have nobody else to count on to do part of the work, carry part of the load or have part of the knowledge.
In your typical survival group, each member is a specialist in one area of survival. One person could be the gardening expert, while another is the communications expert. Still another member is focused on group defense. Each has their area of responsibility; and while the actual labor overlaps those bounds, the "expert" in that area is expected to know what to do, how to direct the other team members and have a plan for taking care of their area of responsibility in the event of an emergency.
There is a definite place in this structure for seniors. Since there will be other, younger backs and legs to do some of the manual work, seniors can concentrate on doing what they can do best for the group's survival, rather than having to struggle to grow food or chop firewood on their own.
But I have to ask you a question...
What do You Have to Offer?
Really, the issue comes down to this question. When you talk to like-minded survivalists, what do you actually have to offer them? Is there some reason why they should be interested in you as a person or are you likely to be excess baggage that they have to take care of?
Please don't be insulted by that last question; there are many people in our society that would be nothing more than excess baggage in a survival situation. They're excess baggage, because they have nothing to offer; nothing that will help the group to survive. You see, when it comes to survival, extra baggage can mean the difference between life and death.
How can a marketing specialist help a survival tem to survive? Unless that marketing specialist has some other survival-related skills, they can't. The same can be said for a wide range of occupations that we have today. What good are computers, without electricity? What does someone in Human Resources have to offer? In most survival situations, the value of those skills will become zero in a matter of seconds; at least until the world returns to some semblance of normal once again.
In reality, you probably have much to offer, but you need to take stock in that and be ready to answer that question. If you can't answer it for yourself, then you'll never be able to answer it for someone else. If you want a team to invite you in, then you have to have a good answer.
Here are some things that you should consider:
- Experience - The years you have lived should have taught you a wealth of things; things which will be applicable in a survival situation. I'm not talking about survival skills here, but life skills. Younger couples need guidance in things like child raising and dealing with marriage problems. Your hard-earned wisdom is valuable.
- Skills - Today's younger generation has lost many of the skills that we depended upon in the past. Your knowledge in canning, gardening, sewing and other skills is useful to the team, especially if they don't already have those skills.
- Patience - Maybe you can't do all the physical work that you once could, but in any group of people, there is going to be a need for things like child care. You can relieve the younger team members of these chores, so that they can focus on the more physical aspects of society.
- Land - Many older people own their homes outright, while younger couples are still struggling to make house payments. In some situations, such as a financial collapse, you could end up being the only one in the group who doesn't lose your home. Your ownership of that land can make it the best choice as a last retreat for your team.
- Money - This one may or may not apply to you. Some older couples have it and some don't. It all depends on what you did through your life and how frugal you were. But most younger couples struggle to make ends meet. So, you might find that you're the best off, financially speaking, even if you aren't rich.
- Tools & Equipment - We need to take this in the broader definition of the word tools. There's a stronger possibility that you have manually operated tools, whether kitchen tools, a sewing machine or workshop tools, than the younger generation will have them. Without power, those will be invaluable.
One key point here is that main thing that any survival group is looking for is knowledge. If you are already an expert in gardening, animal husbandry, food preservation or any of a host of other subjects, that knowledge is valuable to the team. If you aren't already an expert, don't forget that you're not too old to learn. The more you know, the more valuable you are to the team.
Seniors Without a Survival Group
While it is theoretically possible for seniors to survive without a survival group, much will depend on their physical condition, skills and preparation. This is actually no different than anyone else, as we are all dependent on the same things. The basic difference for seniors, is that they are usually not in as good a shape, physically speaking.
As part of your preparations, you must do whatever you can to get in shape, physically speaking. Maybe you can't become a true body builder, but you can exercise. Actually, it's not the muscle mass that's going to be so important, as the stamina. You'll need to be able to walk long distances, work in your garden for hours and do other manual tasks necessary to survival.
Yes, some strength will be important. Swinging an axe to cut wood for the fire does require strength; especially if you're trying to cut a lot of it. So make sure that you build muscle as well, to go with the stamina. But of the two, the stamina is usually the bigger challenge.
Of course, you can reduce the amount of physical strength you need, by making other preparations. Chopping wood isn't hard, if you've got a hydraulic log splitter. I recently saw one that a man built, which actually worked off of gravity. He had his axe head on a long arm, which was counterbalanced perfectly. All he had to do was start the axe head moving, and it would swing down and split the wood. It actually required more strength to pick up the log to be split, than it did to split it.
Developing or buying things like this can make survival tasks physically easier for seniors. They are well worth the investment, even if you ultimately end up part of a group. But then again, having such things and proving your independence with them, is much more likely to make you acceptable to any group you try to join.
Security is an important issue for seniors. Most criminals look on them as being easy prey. That won't change in a disaster scenario. You can be sure that when people start looting houses, looking for food, they'll visit the homes of seniors first.
A few basic precautions, making your home harder to break into, along with being ready to defend it, can make all the difference in the world here. I'll talk more about self-defense later, but I'd like to focus here on the need to harden your home against attack.
Even if you are ready to defend your home, you're better off if you can avoid having to fight. In a fight, there's always a chance that you might be hurt as well. So, you want to stack the deck in your own favor, as much as possible. A large part of this is making it hard for any bad guys to get into your home, where they can attack you. Defending your home when you are inside and the bad guys are outside is much easier than defending it when they are inside with you.
Hardening your home basically means making it hard to break into. That means improving the security on doors and windows, the main entry points that bad guys use. I speak extensively about this in other articles, but suffice it to say that conventional wisdom about home security isn't enough. A door with a deadbolt can be kicked in with a booted foot and a well-locked window can still have the glass broken out of it. Hardening your home requires going beyond these simple measures.
Stockpiling for Seniors
While seniors need to stockpile, just like everyone else, they have some special needs that have to be considered as well. Failure to do so could make survival rather difficult; more so than it would for others.
If anything, the stockpile that seniors develop must be more complete than that built by others. The ability to hunt, forage or grow food will probably not be as great as it would be for younger survivalists. So, rather than counting on hunting or gardening as a means of augmenting your food stocks, make sure that you have enough without that. Then if you manage to hunt, fish or grow anything, it will become something extra, extending your food stocks.
This doesn't just go for food, but for everything. Some people are planning on foraging, scavenging or bartering as part of their post-disaster survival strategy. That's not such a good idea for seniors, especially seniors who have mobility problems. Better to have it on hand, where you don't have to spend time and energy looking for it.
The key thing for most senior citizens, is that they are on some type of medication, or more likely, several types of medication. We take medicines for everything from our blood pressure to erectile dysfunction. Most of those are prescription medicines, which probably won't be available in the wake of a major disaster. But at the same time, most of us only have 30 days or less of those medicines on hand.
The problem is in getting your family physician to go along with the idea of writing a prescription which lasts more than 30 days. Some doctors are now doing this, especially when their patients have a good stable medical history and have been taking the same medication for some time. But many won't.
Personally, I think that you need a minimum of one year's stockpile of all medications you are taking. So if your doctor won't write you a prescription for a year's worth, you need to find other means to buy those prescriptions. The best and easiest of those is to buy the medicines offshore. Both Canadian and Mexican pharmacies mail to the United States, making it actually fairly easy to buy these medicines, even without a prescription.
If you live anywhere within a couple of days drive of Mexico, it's worth the drive to buy your medicines there. If you can buy a year's worth at a time, you'll probably save enough money to pay for the trip, and then some. Mexican pharmaceutical companies are wonderful and the prices are amazing.
Every year, thousands of retired people go to South Texas and other warm climates for the coldest months of the winter. Most of them make a trip to a Mexican pharmacy part of that trip, bringing their list of prescription medicines with them and buying Mexican equivalents. While the name on the package may be different and it will probably be packaged in a little box, instead of a bottle, the medicine inside is essentially the same thing.
Of course, even those medicines will eventually run out. So, the next step is to start learning about herbal medicine. Once upon a time, that was the only medicine that existed. Pharmaceutical companies then rose up, developing artificial compounds which mimicked what was available in nature. That's where our modern medicines came from. Those companies still do the same thing, finding substances in nature which battle disease and then creating artificial equivalents for them.
The main reason for this is that you can't patent something found in nature. But by creating something that's close to what already exists in nature, they are able to make something that is patentable. As long as it does the same job, they're happy; even if it isn't quite as a good as what nature provides.
Learning about herbal medicine has another advantage too. It's another skill which will sell a survival group on the idea of letting you join them. That's a very useful skill and one that is hard to find. Your knowledge of herbal medicine, especially if it contains uses for plants that you can grow in your area or are found wild in your area, is invaluable.
One more thing you need to do as part of your prepping, if you're elderly, is plan for the future. You may not need a walker or cane today, but what about five years from now? While we all hope that things get back to normal fairly quickly after a disaster, some types of disasters, like an EMP attack, won't give us that option. In fact, it's likely we'll ever fully recover from an EMP.
So, buy those durable medical items, if you see the possibility that you will need them anytime in the next few years. If you're going to have to buy them anyway, why wait? Having them on hand will ensure that you're ready, when and if the time comes.
Seniors and Self-Defense
Senior citizens are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. In many cases, an adult woman in her prime has a much better chance of dealing with a violent attacker than she will when she is older, even if she doesn't have any self-defense training. At a minimum, the younger woman can try to fun away; the older has more trouble even trying to doing that.
That's why I'm a big fan of firearms for the elderly. If there is anyone in society who needs to own guns, it's our senior citizens. The gun has been called "the great equalizer" and it is. With it, one doesn't have to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger to be able to defend themselves.
Of course, anyone who is intending to defend themselves with a gun needs to learn how to use it properly and practice with it until they become proficient. A gun, without the proficiency and will to use it properly, is not a good defensive tool. Rather, it can become something which an aggressor can take away from you and use against you.
Proficiency means practice; lots of practice. Practice on and off the gun range. Practice on the gun range will teach you to shoot accurately; but it's the practice off the range which helps you develop the muscle memory necessary to get that gun into action quickly. In a way, that's even more important than the ability to shoot accurately.
In any self-defense situation, whether in a survival situation or a home invasion, you have less than a second to act. Speed is essential, as well as timing. If you can't get your gun into action within a second, then you need to wait for a break. Then, when that break comes, you'll only have a second to move.
As with any other shooter, it's important to have a gun that you're comfortable shooting. I use a .45 Springfield for my carry gun, but my wife can't handle that. Her hands aren't even strong enough to rack the slide, let alone handle the gun. So she shoots a .380 Sig Sauer. The lighter caliber load allows for a lighter buffer spring, which is ideal for her hands. Granted, the bullet doesn't pack as much of a wallop when it hits, but at least she can shoot it.
I only recommend other weapons to those who are morally opposed to guns. Carrying both a firearm and pepper spray, for example, can be dangerous. First of all, it causes you to hesitate while deciding which one to use. You can't afford the time that decision takes. But there's another reason too. If all you have to defend yourself with is a gun, then when you shoot a criminal because you feel threatened, it makes sense. But if you have pepper spray too, the prosecutor can make a case that you didn't use the least deadly force available to you. Given the wrong circumstances, they could say that you were looking for an opportunity to kill the aggressor, perhaps due to racism.
The rule in the use of deadly force is that it is only considered self-defense if you are in "imminent danger of life and limb." That means that a reasonable person in the situation would decide that they would be either severely injured or killed, if they did not use deadly force. The "imminent" part adds urgency to that, with the idea that the risk is current and immediate. In other words, you are seconds away from being killed.
Many people act like the law will be thrown out the window, when and if a disaster occurs. But that's probably not true. While there are some situations where there is a breakdown of society, and the lawless element runs amok, once things return to normal, their actions are viewed as crimes. If they can be caught, they are tried for those crimes.The same thing would happen to anyone who killed another in self-defense. While they may have been perfectly justified in killing to defend themselves, the courts have to decide that. You can be sure that once things return to normal, those who killed in self-defense will be tried, even if it is just a formality. Their innocence will need to be proven, so that their record can be expunged.