Self Defense for Seniors

Seniors practicing martial arts
There are many ways to build your arsenal of self-defense strategies.

The concept of self defense for seniors deals more with not showing fear than with ways to body-slam someone to the pavement. Strength to protect oneself comes from an awareness of surroundings, a fearless presence, and an understanding of your capabilities.

Facts on Crimes Against Seniors

In 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that crime against senior citizens was actually lower than a previous analysis in 1997. However, seniors experience a higher rate of purse snatching and larceny. Approximately one in five personal crimes against seniors involve theft.

Seniors are also are more vulnerable to property crimes, including vehicle theft and burglary. Roughly 92 percent of crimes against those aged 65 and over are property crimes.

Compared to other age groups, persons age 65 and older face male offenders about 79 percent of the time, usually strangers over the age of 30.

Self Defense for Seniors Recommendations

General Tips to Remember

  • Don't overload your arms with packages. Use a luggage cart, or make another trip.
  • Park and walk in well-lit areas.
  • Before leaving your car or a shop, observe your surroundings closely, especially if the area is unfamiliar, so you know where to go for safety.
  • Always have your keys in hand, one finger looped through a key ring, when walking to the car or door.
  • Walk with purpose. Don't look at the ground; look around you.
  • Have a police whistle and a flashlight on your key chain.
  • Carry as little cash and credit cards as possible. Hold only what you're prepared to lose.
  • Don't slip a purse strap around neck -- the attacker could use the strap to harm you.
  • The majority of cell phones for seniors and some medical alarms have 911 connections -- hit that at the first sign of trouble.
  • Visit the bank during the day, instead of stopping by ATMs at night. If you must visit an ATM, try a well-lit, drive-thru location.
  • Don't open your door to a stranger. Look out a window or keyhole first, and, if necessary, speak through the door.

Practice the Art of Deception

Purse and wallet snatchers and robbers expect to relieve you of your most obvious valuable, then run away. Here are some tricks to keep your valuables-- and yourself-- safe:

  • If you must carry a purse or wallet, consider using a travel wallet, which is worn under clothes either around the neck or attached to the waistband. Men can also use a dummy wallet to hand over to the assailant.
  • Women should put their jacket on over their purse so that the handbag is less exposed.
  • Slip cash and credit cards in a travel wallet, waist pack, or pocket.
  • Carry keys in a pocket, not in the purse.

If you are threatened with physical force, remember:

  • Dodge. If someone starts to hit you, move aside and forward to avoid the blow.
  • Don't let anyone back you up against a wall or other object. If they're striking at you, move to the side in a circle, not backward.
  • If someone grabs you from behind, don't struggle and pull to get away, even though it seems natural to do so. Rather, lean against the attacker and force your head back hard to throw the person off-balance.

Additionally, the more fit you are, the better your chances are of not getting hurt if faced with an attacker. Keep up with your exercise regimen, most importantly strength training. You may not be able to k.o. the assailant with an uppercut, but your physicality will help your efforts to break free or move to the side, hold on to something so you're not pushed down, and blow into your police whistle.

Using a Weapon

A weapon isn't necessarily a gun or a knife. Keep in mind that almost anything can be used to inflict harm: keys, an umbrella, a pen, a cane, and even canned food from your shopping bag.

If you must use one of these items to defend yourself, think of where it will have a real impact. For example, smashing a can of creamed corn across the bridge of the nose is more effective than throwing it at the attacker's stomach. A pen or key jabbed in the eye is better than a poke on the arm.

Self defense for seniors experts generally recommend not to carry items such as tasers, knives, guns, and, by some opinion, mace or pepper spray. The attacker could easily use these weapons against you.

However, some people feel more comfortable taking their early-morning walk with a pepper spray canister attached to a key chain. Another option is walking weights with the pepper spray built-in.

Self-Defense Classes

There are many options for self-defense classes. It's not only a good way to build your knowledge, but also great exercise.

  • Call your police station and see if they offer self-defense classes at a YMCA or a senior center. Many municipalities host classes as a public service.
  • Local martial arts facilities often have a self defense for seniors class. If not, ask if there's a self-defense course for women, which will still arm you with methods of protection.
  • FullPower International is an organization that teaches self-defense classes. It isn't available in many states in the U.S., but they offer to be a helpful resource to finding classes near you.
  • There are a variety of videos and DVDs that teach self-defense as well. Based on the principles of tai chi, these methods enable you and a partner to practice on one another. SI Video is one source of self-defense media, Active Video is another.

There is one important psychological factor to remember regarding self-defense. Learning about self defense for seniors is not because you are old and feeble; you are strengthening yourself and becoming more prepared. Don't deny yourself an opportunity to improve your well-being simply because of a perception, because that's exactly how an attacker wants you to think.

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Self Defense for Seniors