Self-Defense for Seniors

More than 90 percent of crimes against seniors are property crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, with robbery accounting for one in four violent crimes against seniors.

Because so many criminals see older Americans as potential targets, many seniors find themselves living their lives in fear. Two-thirds of seniors believe they will be crime victims at some point, with nearly half of those 75 and older afraid to even leave home after dark.

To break free from these fears, seniors must take action to safeguard against becoming crime victims. In this article, we’ll look at critical strategies for reducing the chances of you or an older loved one being targeted, as well as how to be ready if trouble does find you.

Take Basic Precautions 

Many problems can be avoided with commonsense precautions that reduce your vulnerability to criminals. When you’re out and about, this means:

  • Be alert to what’s around you and walk with a purpose
  • Park in well-lit areas and have your keys ready in hand
  • Don’t load yourself down with packages
  • Carry a whistle to alert others for help.

When you’re at home, steps include:

  • Always lock your doors and windows
  • Never open your door for strangers
  • Monitor and report suspicious neighborhood activity
  • Call 911 if there’s trouble.

These simple steps can reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim, but they only work if you commit to following them at all times.

Improve Your Physical Fitness

Many older Americans are afraid of being victimized because they aren’t as strong as they once were. One way to address this is to take a self-defense course for seniors, which can give you proven techniques for avoiding injury during a confrontation. These classes are often available for free at your local YMCA or through your local government.

Improving your physical health also makes you less vulnerable to criminals. Eating healthy, getting your daily vitamins, taking regular walks and engaging in low-impact strength training all help you become stronger, so you’re less likely to be hurt and better able to fend off an attack.

Arm Yourself

While some experts warn against seniors using weapons for self-defense, they are appropriate for some individuals and situations.

For example, just the sound of cocking a shotgun can be enough to scare off a burglar, though it’s important to consider whether you can actually fire it if necessary. A handgun is easier to fire, but more difficult to aim. Guns and knives can be turned against you, so you’ll want to think carefully before relying on these weapons.

Pepper spray is a popular, non-lethal weapon for stopping criminals in their tracks, and it can be used both at home and when you’re out. The key is to have easy access to spray, such as carrying it on a keychain and having it in your hand while you walk to your car. 

Use Your Wits

Ultimately, one of your best defenses is your own mind, both in terms of preventing an incident as well as responding to an attack. Examples include:

  • Carry a fake wallet to give to potential robbers, and keep cards and cash in a travel wallet or pocket
  • Take anti-burglary measures at home, such as using auto-timed lights when you’re away or a security bar so criminals can’t kick in your door
  • Use what you have nearby as a weapon, whether that’s a cane or even a set of keys
  • Participate in efforts such as the Watch Your Car program, which allows cops to pull over your vehicle during hours when you don’t normally drive it.

Many seniors say their fear of becoming crime victims makes them feel both lonely and isolated from the outside world. This means the criminals have won, even if these people never end up being victimized directly.

The only way to eliminate fear is through action. A good place to start is with the steps outlined here, using a combination of commonsense and proven physical protection methods to keep yourself safe from those who want to harm you.


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