Today’s seniors are more active and engaged than ever. Many people over the age of 65 still work, volunteer, travel, take classes, socialize and participate in recreational activities.
Unfortunately, with an active lifestyle outside of the home, comes greater risk of exposure to crime. Although older adults are less likely to become victims of crime than those in other age groups, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that seniors suffer more harmful consequences of violent crimes against them than others, including serious injury and the need for sustained medical care.
“While I don’t consider myself an expert in crime prevention, I like to talk with our patients about their personal safety,” says Maria Baron, RN, a case manager with the Sharp Senior Health Center in downtown San Diego. “I remind them to avoid situations where they feel uncomfortable, to keep a cellphone accessible at all times and to call 911 immediately if they feel a dangerous situation may be arising.”
Baron’s advice aligns with senior safety tips provided by the County of San Diego’s District Attorney’s Office and Health and Human Services Agency. They encourage men and women of all ages to know the “Four A’s” of physical self-defense to keep themselves safe and to avoid becoming a victim of violent crime:
- Project confidence and walk with purpose in public spaces.
- Look up, not at the ground, and make eye contact with those around you.
- Be prepared — have your keys out and ready to unlock your car or front door; know the address of and directions to where you are traveling; and ask a friend or family member to accompany you to unfamiliar places or to meet unfamiliar people.
- Trust your gut — if a place, person or situation makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, leave immediately.
- Stay alert when out and about, especially in busy public spaces — day and night.
- Before leaving your car or a building, make sure the area is well-lit and visible to others, and look around for people or places that could offer protection if needed.
- Always know where your valuables are — purse, wallet, keys — and keep them close to you.
- Pay attention to the people around you, cars pulling alongside you, and surrounding activities and businesses.
If you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, consider the following:
- Where can I go for help?
- Are there others around who are able to help me?
- Does the person approaching me have a weapon?
- Do I need to fight back?
- Can I escape?
- React quickly!
- Be loud — yell and use your voice as a weapon.
- Make a choice — fight or flight — and give it your 100 percent.
- Let go of your valuables — your personal safety is far more important.
- If someone grabs you, use your feet, elbows, fingers, palm of your hand, keys or other hard objects you may be holding to fight back — aiming for the eyes and throat — and escape as soon as possible.
“Common sense can be your best defense,” says Baron. “Trust your instincts and avoid going out when you may risk returning after dark; leave valuables at home; only bring the cash and credit cards necessary for an outing; and try to travel in groups or with at least one other.”