Self-Defense While Aging in Place

While living alone brings freedom, dignity and independence, it can also make seniors vulnerable to those who wish to do them harm. As such, it is vital for seniors to know how to keep themselves safe. Here, the aging-in-place specialists at Avila Home Care details ways for seniors to defend themselves.

A Department of Justice study that analyzed crime trends from 2003-2013 found that nonfatal violent crime against elderly people rose 27%. Property crime made up 93% of all nonfatal violent crime against elderly people, including household burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft. Assailants may perceive senior citizens as more vulnerable than other age demographics in property crime situations.

For seniors, self-defense is less about physical capability, and more about situational awareness, preparedness and a fearless presence in the face of would-be attackers. This is not to say that seniors should forsake physical fitness—staying physically active as an elderly person has a myriad of benefits—but oftentimes, it is an individual’s ability to analyze a situation, stay cautious and avoid obvious danger that does the most to help in an emergency.

As most crimes against seniors happen at or near the home, there are several general guidelines seniors should follow when exiting or entering their home to help prevent themselves from becoming victims of a crime. The doors and windows of your home and car should remain locked unless in use. When approaching your car or home door, have your keys already out, with a finger looped through the key ring, in order to make a rapid entrance. Attaching a miniature flashlight and police whistle to your keyring can also be useful. Automatic lights should be installed in the front and back of the house, which can make entering and exiting the home safer, and also detract would-be burglars. When exiting and entering the home, keep your arms as free as possible—if bringing groceries, luggage or other items in or out, make multiple trips, or use a luggage cart. When walking, focus on what is going on around you—looking at the ground, a phone or other distraction makes it difficult to stay aware of your surroundings.

When out and about, help make yourself less of a target for thieves. Only keep as many credit cards or as much cash on you as you will realistically need for the day. Instead of a traditional purse or wallet, consider wearing a money belt, which hides discreetly under clothing or around the neck. “Dummy wallets” may also be useful if you are stopped by an assailant. If you must carry a purse or bag, wear it under a jacket or coat. Avoid handling your money in public more than necessary, and try to visit ATMs during daylight hours only. If you must visit at night, choose ATMs in well-lit areas, or drive-thru ATMs.

While preventative measures will deter much violent crime, a physical attack by an assailant is still possible. If someone attempts to hit you, dodge by moving aside and forward. Do not let an assailant force you backward—balance is poorer when moving that way—and keep from being pushed against a wall or other object. If an assailant grabs you from behind, lean backwards against them, and push your head back sharply, which will help throw the attacker off-balance. Once it is safe to do so, call 911—many cell phones made specially for senior citizens have a button for immediate 911 connection.

At Avila Home Care, we believe all senior citizens should feel empowered to age-in-place independently—but that does not mean elderly individuals do not deserve a little help. One of the biggest factors in staying safe is knowing when to ask for assistance, and our dedicated caregivers have the experience necessary to help make seniors citizen’s aging-in-place experience a little happier, easier and safer. For more information, give us a call today!

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