In addition to the list below, you may want to add to this list emergencies which could be common in your specific family or community ... such as early coronary events in your family, or neighborhood flooding during times of heavy rain.
According to Investopedia, in 2016 people in their 60s had a median savings account of about $172,000. This means that half of all retirees had less than that ... many of them much less. If you are living off Social Security, plus additional income based on dividends or interest on your savings, you do not want to spend the principal in order to purchase a new car, buy a hot water heater, replace a roof, or pay the deductible for surgery or other medical treatments. The obvious solution is for everyone to save as much as possible prior to retirement and designate a portion of that savings as an emergency fund which you do not depend on to cover your essential living expenses.
In addition, you may want to discuss with your financial planner or investment advisor whether your money is invested conservatively enough to be protected, in the event of a drop in the stock market or other major financial reversal.
According to the National Council on Aging, about one in four people over the age of 65 falls each year. Falls are the most common cause of fatal injuries and are a common cause of hospital admissions. Keeping your body strong and getting regular exercise is the first line of defense in preventing falls. Everyone should make sure their homes are well-lit and contain no loose rugs or other items which could cause you to trip.
You may also want to purchase a medical alert device, especially if you live alone. You wear them like a pendant or bracelet and use them to quickly contact an agent who can call an ambulance, neighbor or relative for you, in the event of a fall.
You should also talk to your doctor if your blood pressure medicine or other medications make you feel light-headed or dizzy. They may be able to change your prescription.
According to FEMA, older Americans are much more likely to die in a house fire than younger adults. If you have trouble hearing, take sleeping medications, or have difficulty getting out of bed by yourself, you have an especially elevated risk of dying in a house fire. Make sure your home is equipped with plenty of very loud smoke and fire detectors, as well as a carbon monoxide detector. Change the batteries frequently, at least every six months.
Install nightlights in your home and plug them into outlets near the floor, so they can guide you to an exit. The air is clearer near the floor, so crawl out if you have trouble finding your way. Be sure some of your nightlights have a battery backup, in case the electricity goes out. Sleep with your bedroom door closed so you do not succumb to smoke inhalation if a fire starts in another room. Check to see if you can get outside to safety from a bedroom window if the fire is burning between you and an outside door.
If you live independently, you need to be prepared to handle any natural disaster which could affect you. Depending on where you live, that could include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes or wildfires. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says on their website that "being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters."
Because you may move a little slower as you age, it would be wise to prepare a "get away" bag that contains some emergency cash, a change of clothes, a two-week supply of your medications, copies of your insurance documents, a list of important phone numbers and any other important items you will want to have ready if you ever have to hop in the car and leave quickly. Put paperwork and medications in waterproof plastic bags. If you have a back-up pair of glasses or an extra hearing aid, put those items in your bag, too. You may also want to include a flashlight, battery operated radio, small first-aid kit, photo id, and copies of items such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, Medicare card, etc.
Make sure the bag is not too heavy for you to lift by yourself. If it is, get someone to help you put it in your car, where you can easily reach it and transport it to an emergency shelter, if you are evacuated.
Homeland Security has an online booklet called 30 Tips for Emergency Preparedness. Print it out, read it, and keep a copy in your bag. In a true emergency, you may have trouble remembering what you should do.
Make sure your bag is large enough for you to toss in any last minute items you may want to grab as you run out the door ... a tablet computer, phone charger, new medication, wallet, pet food, or similar items you may want to add, if you have time. Some people have two bags ... one conveniently stored in their home and one they keep in their auto at all times.
In the event the disaster cuts you off from roads and outside help for a few days (for example, if the roads are flooded), you may also want to keep emergency supplies of food and water in your home. A battery operated cell phone charger could also help you stay in touch with the outside world. If you have a pet, make sure you have provisions for them, as well.
More Emergency Considerations
Depending on your health condition or other problems, you may also have to prepare for emergencies which are unique to you and your family. We all have a tendency to tell ourselves that "someday" we will put together emergency supplies, save more money, or think about what to do in the event of a disaster. Do not wait. Do it now and you can relax knowing that, while you cannot possibly prepare for every eventuality, you will have done everything you can to protect yourself, your spouse, other family members, and your pets in an emergency.
If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare for common problems as you age, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.
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