The Senior Prepper: Six Special Considerations For The Elderly

Who knows better than someone who’s been around a while that sometimes life throws curves?  Despite this, I’ve seen little about the particular needs of the senior prepper — or thought about it myself, to be honest.  We here at 3BY recently got a message from one of our young readers. (Did you know there’s a scout merit badge for preparedness?  Pretty neat, huh?) . She’d found a resource she really liked and hoped to share it further than her own grandmother.

I agreed it’s worth the read, and you can find it here if you clicky.  It got me to thinking, too; so I wanted to add a few thoughts both from the prepper perspective and bringing in some things I learned helping my own parents.

The med list 

The suggestion to have a couple of copies of one’s medication list is certainly a good one. Since many seniors have a fairly complex set of medications, it might be wise to develop that list further, such as saying how much of each is to be taken and special instructions (such as only when a symptom arises, or only with food).  The person who the meds are for won’t have to remember it all, and if the person needs help the helper needs to know that stuff too.

And what if some of the meds aren’t available?  That’s not necessarily a big problem in the short term; but it would be easier to adjust appropriately if the list also indicated which med was for which purpose.  Oftentimes one med is prescribed just to handle side effects of another one, so if one is stopped the other should be too.  More thoughts on adjusting meds can be found here

PrepperMed 101: Situations Change. Sometimes The SHTF. Life Changes. Medication Changes. But How? A Prepping Example.

Contact information 

This is more for the personal-level emergencies; but those are after all the most common sort.  I hope we’re all carrying enough information that a first responder would know who to contact if we’re incommunicado.  I also am a big fan of having both well-thought-out advance directives and, if possible, someone you trust completely that has your medical power of attorney.  Both information on the advance directives and who has the power of attorney should be easily on hand.


If you need mobility aids, do you have spares?  How are you set for extra hearing aid batteries?  Reading glasses? A magnifier for fine work?  Dentures or supplies that go with them?  Have you thought about how you’d manage if you’ve special needs along that line and have to get out of Dodge and maybe stay in places that aren’t very accessible?  These are things that any of us might need, but they’re more commonly required the longer we survive.

If anyone in the home uses oxygen, it’s critical to have a very fast and reliable escape plan suited to your mobility.  The high oxygen content in the building … well, let’s just say that throwing extra oxygen on a fire is just about like throwing gasoline on it.  We have one woman in town who was on oxygen; her entire home burned to the foundation before the fire trucks could get the three miles out of town to her place.  (She had the rapid escape ready, luckily.)

If anyone in the building uses oxygen therapy, be ready to clear the building Fast in case of fire!


Many seniors don’t drive.  Of course they often have friends or family to help them normally — but are these people close enough if travel is very hard or time is very short?  I’d be stopping by my neighbor’s across the street if we have an ammonia truck crash or something and need to immediately evacuate; but if I wasn’t a prepper it might not occur to me, and her son is a bit of a drive away.  A standing arrangement with a neighbor would make that process much smoother.

If one does have to go to a shelter…

In major disasters right now, sheltering the victims is often done by opening up big centers, like school gyms filled with cots. That’s not fun for anyone, but one thing that seldom gets mentioned is that those places are like trading conventions for germs.  People with less robust immune systems might have extra alcohol gel sanitizer and face masks packed.  Face masks aren’t great at stopping airborne germs, but they help somewhat and they discourage one from touching one’s face, which is useful.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate Red Cross shelters like this one … it’s that I think it’s very easy to share germs in such places.

Temperature control

A heat source that doesn’t go away when the electricity does is an important prep for any of us in cold climes.  Cooling we often overlook though.  If most of us don’t have AC, it’s just uncomfortable.  Senior citizens have a harder time with it though.  The last time Paris had a big heat wave (many buildings there don’t have AC since they seldom need it), they had several fatalities, and every one so far as I saw were among the elderly.  I’ve got a lovely little battery-operated fan that helps a ton; if you live in a hot climate that might be a worthy investment.  I sure am glad to have it during summer nights at The Place, and I get more than a full night out of each battery.

A battery operated fan that’s a convenience to some might save the life of an elder.

It’s not like prepping is a whole different ballgame for seniors.  They’re part of Everybody, so if it’s an ‘everybody should have’ then they should too.  They are more likely to have a few of these special considerations, though.  I also hope this has got you thinking about what seniors may be in your corner of the world who might need a bit of a hand.  If you don’t see the value of helping for its own sake, remember we’re talking about people who often know how to do quite a few things that most of us a couple of decades younger have never learned.




  1. Recently I’ve read a spate of kindly-meant articles. From charitable giving to going to barter points. You name it. And it is not that I’m a cruel man – in this current world. But in a SHTF situation, the rules change. Any concept of being able to supply food, shelter, meds, power needs, mobility needs and so on to the elderly require one thing – stability. Only if that need is met first can any dream of being noble work out. The elderly who cannot provide any or all of the items I just listed will simply be a burden. If you can, if you wish, if you’ve some sense of loyalty and duty to them – okay, try. But never expect any other person to feel as you do for that individual. Survival is a cruel process. Again, you are obviously a kind and good person in this world now. But, if the world to come is not so, you will perish due to that same kindness. And then, so will those you strove to save and protect.

    • Well sir, I don’t believe I’m getting out of this life alive no matter how I behave; so while personal survival is important, it isn’t *all* that’s important. There will be situations (have already been situations) where I can’t do all I wish for people. I don’t consider that a barrier to doing all that I think I can and should do at any given time. That’s my own outlook and everyone will make their own decisions; all I’m trying to do is provide helpful information.

    • We have just had a SHTF situation in Puerto Rico. Most have survived. I think what will happen depends on the nature of the disaster. If you have elderly family members and want them to survive, you need to plan for it. The elderly do provide important value. For one thing they tend to be the folks with the most money to spend on supplies. For another, they have memories of how to do things others never knew in the first place. Do not underestimate the elderly.

    • This is a general comment, not meant at you directly since I obviously don’t know your or your position on things, so let’s just keep this all in general… but people in the prepping community tend to focus a whole lot of their thoughts towards total, end of the world as we know it Mad Max scenarios.

      In reality, those are much lower probablilty events than hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, pandemics, widespread power outages, tornados, large-scale wild fires… things that can disrupt for weeks and months at a time.

      Yes, Yellowstone will errupt again some day. Yes, an astroid will hit the earth again. Yes, the poles will shift. Eventually. So… those things should be considered, but something that happens every 600,000 years or so is less likely to happen tomorrow than something that happens year in, year out.

      We prep for the most likely things, and those preps make us more prepared for the more unlikely catastrophic events.

      Frankly, if somebody who needs oxygen to survive is in a long-term disaster situation, that outcome isn’t going to be good. Somebody who needs insulin or other drugs to survive is not going to make it long past when they run out. We all get that.

      This article isn’t about “help is never coming”, it’s about keeping people alive and as well as possible until either help arrives or time runs out on them.

      “Let’s watch grandma suffer and die instead of making some common sense plans ahead of time” isn’t really much of a prepping plan in my book.

  2. For more cooling options, consider those high tech towels that cool off through evaporation when moistened. Won’t help in extreme humidity conditions, but one wrapped around the neck and two smaller ones around the wrists can make a huge difference to someone in heat distress. I got a few last year at the beginning of summer then stocked up after the summer heat had passed and they went on clearance sales.
    And make sure to have hydration supplies – not just clean water, although that’s the minimum – you should also have the ingredients for oral rehydration solution. There are lots of formulations, but the one I rely on has salt (NaCl), salt substitute (KCl), sugar and baking soda. Added to clean water in the right proportions can help keep your electrolytes balanced as they are lost to sweat or urine, especially for those taking certain medications like diuretics!
    Having a plan to keep folks as comfortable and safe as you can is just human decency.

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