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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Age: Not Something I Was Fully Prepared For

I've been a prepper for a long time. We used to be called “survivalists”, but that term developed some severely negative image once the news/entertainment media began to lump it in with conspiracy theorists, anarchists, and sovereign citizen activists. “Prepper” is more main-stream and acceptable, and is less likely to conjure up the image of someone who chooses to live outside the bounds of society. I do what I can to be prepared for disasters large and small, and I've gathered my skills and stores over the years. What I wasn't prepared for was the years.

I'm getting old. While David may have a few years seniority over me, I'm rapidly approaching retirement age and there are some things that I didn't fully prepare for. I'm not going to complain about getting old; too many of my friends didn't get the opportunity to grow old for me to whine about it. I bring this up for my younger readers, to tell them that there are some things they  may want to think about and start preparing for.

Health
I'm in better shape physically than most people my age. I got a good roll of the dice for genetics, so I can look forward to a fairly decent old age: Cancer doesn't run in my family, and even for those who smoked it has usually been something else that killed them; heart disease is a crap-shoot on both sides of my family, but I've taken better care of myself than previous generations; diabetes is about the same with both parents developing it late in life, but being aware of that I've taken steps to reduce my risk.

I have realized that I'm starting to age, though.
  • I went to renew my driver's license and failed the eye test for the first time. 40+ years of driving, and now I have to wear my reading glasses to be safe. Time to invest in a few extra pair of glasses.
  • On the topic of eyesight, I've found that I get more use out of optical sights on my firearms now. Iron sights just aren't as useful as they were 20 years ago. I like my laser sights and red-dot scopes, so batteries got bumped up a notch on the list of priorities.
  • I had a root canal fail after 35 years. The dentist dug out the old root and also took out an adjacent tooth that was bad (3.5 hours in the chair, a week on pain killers, two weeks on antibiotics) and once that heals up I'll get fitted for a partial denture. Yeah, the denture cream commercials aren't funny any more, and now I'm going to have to look into denture care/repair.
  • I don't heal as quickly as I used to. What were once minor injuries or illnesses can now side-line me for days or weeks. This requires more attention to preventing injuries and illness as well as larger supplies of whatever I need to treat them. A minor cut that used to heal in three or four days, taking maybe a dozen bandages to keep it clean, now takes a week or more and a lot more bandages.
  • Arthritis is trying to get a grip on some of my joints. Since my wife suffers from fibromyalgia and a few other chronic ailments, I know what I have to stockpile to ease the pain and stiffness. Herbal anti-inflamatories are on the research list.

Money
It's hard to live without money, at least under the present conditions. I'm not a wealthy man; I've worked blue-collar jobs most of my life and have never felt the need to amass great sums of money. Some of that is based on my religion, and some of it comes from living a simple life. I'm not a competitive person, so I don't get involved in the “keeping up with the neighbor” games. Frank got a new car? Good for him, I'm sure he'll enjoy it.

That being said, I have tried to plan for my retirement.
  • I have minimized my debt to the point that I will be debt-free as soon as my mortgage is paid off in about three years.
  • I have modest retirement accounts and small pensions through two former employers. IRAs and 401(k) plans are based on the stock market, so the money is not really ensured, but it's a calculated risk. I'm willing to gamble (which is what the stock market is) a percentage of my pay for the chance to have a source of income when I decide to stop working. Start as early in your working life as you can, because it builds up over time.
  • Social Security may still be in operation by the time I retire. I've paid into that Ponzi scheme since 1977, and I pray that I can at least break even and get back what I put in. I'm not going to rely on it as a primary source of income, though.
  • If at all possible, have more than one source of income. I've been the primary income provider since I got married. I chose to let my wife be a stay-at-home mother to raise our family, and that decision had side-effects. Sometimes you have to do work that you don't want to, just to put food on the table.
  • Being unemployed has not been an option for most of my life, so I'm not sure how I'm going to react to retirement. I've seen people thrive after they stop working, but I've also seen people die within a few years of retirement.

Family
While I'm losing relatives to age, I'm also gaining grandchildren and extended family (tribe). My mother's family has dwindled to my generation and our children, and my father's is getting close to that. 
  • Not many aunts and uncles left, which is a chunk of my life that I'm not looking forward to losing. Funerals are never any fun, and I've been to a lot of them lately, but they're offset by the birthday parties,weddings, and other celebrations of life that come from having family. 
  • Funerals don't normally require presents, but the other gatherings do. Time to take stock of gift-able items. Not many in my family/tribe will pass up gift-wrapped ammunition.
  • I have some responsibility to pass on what I know to future generations. That is one reason I write these articles, but I also have close family that I need to teach very basic things to. I have grandchildren and others that don't understand how much they'll never learn in school, and from what I've seen of recent graduates of public schools, reading and writing (legibly) aren't being taught any more, so I have several boxes of paper and pencils.
  • I have family and tribe scattered across the country. Keeping in touch with them is easy now, thanks to the Internet and cell phones, but if TSHTF, this will likely change. I have a few friends looking into amateur radio for me, I'll try to get an article together this summer with what we find in our local area.

Having a prepper mindset means looking to the future and trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at you. Just keep in mind that after you've survived the disaster, you still have many more years ahead of you.

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