Unsurprisingly, senior citizens are among the most vulnerable targets for predators.
According to a recent report from the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, despite the fact that over 10 percent of older adults experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year, crimes against senior citizens are highly underestimated and underreported.
Those with cognitive disabilities and degenerative diseases, including dementia, are at particularly high risk of violent crime and scams.
However, preparedness can drastically reduce one’s likelihood of a violent incident, and knowing what to do when under attack can seriously improve the outcome of the situation.
Here are some practical safety and self-awareness tips to help keep older adults safe:
1. Always Be Aware – Remaining aware and alert is the best defense against an attack, but, as we age and our eyesight, hearing, and general awareness naturally decreases, this can be tough.
However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you don’t lose awareness and put yourself in a vulnerable position that savvy offenders are likely to exploit.
· No matter where you are or what you’re doing, give the area around you a scan to identify any potential threats.
· If your senses are less sharp than they once were, make sure to never leave the house without your glasses and hearing aids.
· Avoid any dark or low-lit parking lots, alleyways, or sidewalks where you might find yourself unable to see in front of you.
· Don’t let your guard down, but don’t be paranoid. Try to build a barrier of awareness around your entire body, with minimal blind spots.
2. Be Able to Identify a Potential Scam – The proliferation of internet and phone scams continues to grow out of control, and older folks are prime targets.
Regularly check in with the Federal Trade Commission’s Scam Alerts to stay on top of the most common and current cons.
Never let any stranger or door-to-door salesman into your house, and don’t hand out any personal information over the phone or internet.
3. Learn How to Use a Weapon – Because senior citizens may experience cognitive impairment that worsens with time, owning a firearm may not be the best choice for many.
However, there are some powerful non-lethal self-defense weapons out there that are particularly ideal for senior citizens, and even some made specifically for the older population.
For example, there’s a fully functioning cane that doubles as a stun gun that allows the elderly and disabled to wield a serious defense against potential predators. Cool, huh?
4. Take a Senior Citizen Self-Defense Course – Just because you’re over the age of 65 doesn’t mean you can’t still pack a serious punch! In fact, there are special senior citizen self-defense programs that help older adults learn proven tactics of personal safety.
In these courses, participants learn components of ancient martial arts, often modified to prevent injury, that even less mobile adults can use to their advantage in high-risk situations.
Check with your local police department or martial arts studio for special courses.
5. Be Extra-Leery of Strangers – Did you know that over half of all violent acts against older adults are carried out by complete strangers to the victim?
Another 26 percent of incidents are carried out by an acquaintance, leaving only a small percentage performed by loved ones.
While it’s not good for one’s mental health or quality of life to be completely closed off to new people, it’s important that seniors are hyper-aware of these statistics and that they aren’t too trusting of strangers.
6. Know How to Respond to an Attack – In the event that you experience a physical attack, know how to respond quickly. If you’re alone, make as much noise as possible to alert people of the situation.
Some people carry personal alarms or safety whistles so they can cause a commotion should they need to.
Think of everything on your person as a tool of defense—your cane serves as a very powerful weapon of force, your phone can be essential for gathering evidence, and a sharp keychain could help incapacitate a predator.
7. Follow the Buddy System – We know that one of the hardest parts about getting older is the reality that some of your independence will be lost.
However, when it comes to entering potentially risky scenarios, independence is not something you want to strive for. If possible, head to the grocery store or out to dinner with a friend or two, and don’t walk at night or in dark parking lots alone.
If you live alone, it may be time to consider making the switch to community living or moving to a secure, gated condo or apartment.
8. Focus on Safety at Home – As an older adult, you may be particularly vulnerable to theft and robbery, but there are some simple things you can do to deter criminals from targeting your home.
Install cameras on the perimeter of your home, including a doorbell camera, so you don’t ever have to answer the door for strangers. Investing in a professional home security system is not a bad idea, either.
Remember to always make your home look occupied, even if you’re heading out of town, by leaving lights on and having someone get your mail.
It’s All About Awareness and Preparedness
It doesn’t matter if you’re 80 or 18. The key to getting out of a potentially dangerous scenario unscathed is to be prepared.
Knowing what to carry, how to respond, and what to avoid will help ensure that you never find yourself face to face with a predator looking to exploit your weaknesses as an older adult.
With these tips, you’re much more likely to walk away in one piece with no trauma.