A local ‘prepper’ writes tips for older adults on a budget

by Len Lear
Posted 5/11/23

Michelle Lofton, of Mt. Airy, grew up with so little that her home sometimes had no electricity, food or hot water. That background infuses her new book on budgeting for seniors.

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A local ‘prepper’ writes tips for older adults on a budget


Michelle Lofton, of Mt. Airy, grew up with so little that her home sometimes had no electricity, food or hot water. To survive, she said, she sometimes foraged in the woods for medicinal herbs and natural ingredients that would help her create something to eat.

“One of my toughest memories from childhood is when my sister sat crying on her bed because we had no food to eat for dinner that night,” Lofton said. “We were used to having to get creative with our meals and stretch what little we had, but that night there was nothing left in the cabinets or fridge. It was a wake-up call for me that we couldn't always rely on having enough food to eat.” 

That background infuses her new book, “From Zero to Prepared: A Senior's Guide to Budget Prepping” with the kind of authority that comes from experience. In it, Lofton shares her wisdom as an experienced “prepper,” helping senior citizens to prepare for emergency situations, and possible disasters, while maintaining financial stability.

Lofton, who has a B.A. in English and professional communications from St. Joseph's University, also holds two certificates in emergency preparedness from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute.

Her book explores home safety and security, creating medical emergency kits, preparing for emergencies with pets and financial planning during crises. It addresses the unique challenges faced by older adults, such as finding affordable healthcare options, accessing resources and assistance, and connecting with family, friends and community organizations for support.

While "prepper" is a term that sometimes conjures images of paranoid individuals, at the core, Lofton said, it’s really just someone who creates a plan, gathers resources and gains skills so that they can be more prepared for emergencies, disasters, and other survival situations.

Lofton said she considers herself a "prepper," and became one partly as a result of her experiences growing up. 

“It made me realize how vulnerable we are to the unexpected, and how important it is to be prepared for emergencies,” said Lofton, who is now the special events and home and school coordinator at Wilmington Friends School. She said she delved into it “not out of fear, but out of a desire to be self-reliant and to ensure that my family would never have to go through what we did when I was a child.”

Those years of deprivation taught Lofton valuable survival skills, she said, and how to reuse things most people would throw away. 

She also learned quite a few things from her father, who was “a hoarder of sorts,” she said, and saved everything from bacon grease to empty tin cans and glass jars. The family had a black walnut tree and a sassafras tree in their backyard, which they used to forage for food and medicine. Lofton's dad grew grapes, and her grandfather had a garden behind his garage around the corner from her house. 

When the family’s hot water heater gave out, they lived for years without one. Water was heated on the stove and used for washing up in the sink. 

"I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed when I had to wear dirty clothes to school because we couldn't afford to wash them,” Lofton said.

When Lofton became a senior citizen, she was well positioned to prepare for the future, but she was well aware, of course, that countless other contemporaries are not – especially those on a fixed income.

“That's why I decided to write this book,” she said. “I want to share my experiences and insights with others who may be in a similar situation. I know how difficult it can be to find reliable information and resources that are tailored to our specific needs.” 

Although her book just came out last month, Lofton says she has been working on it for many years. When asked what was the best advice she had ever received, she replied, “It is actually a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., which has stuck with me throughout my life: 'You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.'”

When asked what was the hardest thing she has ever done, Lofton replied, “The hardest thing I ever had to do was say goodbye to my mother when she passed away. I was alone in the room with her, and it was the first time I had experienced death first-hand. 

“My mother was a strong, resilient and generous woman who had a profound impact on my life. She taught me so many valuable lessons that I still carry with me today. Saying goodbye to her was one of the most painful moments of my life … Her passing was a reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to cherish the moments we have with our loved ones.”

Both the ebook and paperback of “From Zero to Prepared: A Senior's Guide to Budget Prepping” are available on Amazon.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com.