During a recent sunrise walk around my neighborhood on garbage pickup day, I found myself unconsciously saying to myself on several occasions, “Only one person lives in that house.” It was so obvious – one half-filled white bag of trash on a street filled with homes with multiple large trash bins and overflowing recycling containers. A quick glance at the half-empty recycling bins told me that the person living alone in that house was likely a senior – a few empty cans of pet food, maybe an empty bottle of wine or a few beer cans, a couple of Ensure bottles, and several newspapers.
Almost no one under age 65 reads hard copy newspapers anymore, so seeing newspapers in a driveway or recycling bin is a dead giveaway that it’s very likely that a senior is in the home.
I had no criminal intent while unconsciously doing this casual recon, but if it was that easy for me to spot which homes would likely be easy targets for valuables and prescription drugs, imagine how easy it would be for a bad guy.
So, here are a few commonsense safety tips for seniors:
- Always put out a rolling trash bin – even if you only have a small bag of trash. Yes, you’ll have to walk down your driveway twice, but you’ll no longer be advertising “I’m all alone in this house.”
- If you choose to recycle, save your recycling until the bins are full. It may take a month, but if you rinse out any containers, bugs in your garage shouldn’t be a problem. If the bins will be heavy, consider a rolling recycling bin cart. Your kids are always asking what you want for Christmas 🙂
- I’ve heard safety professionals recommend this: keep a big dog bowl of water and maybe even a big dog bone near your back door – the kind a German Shepherd would use. Some folks even advise using a recording of a large barking dog that’s triggered when the front doorbell rings. Or even playing a looping soundtrack of random large dog noises when you’re gone. Criminals generally ring the doorbell first to see if anyone is home, so the theory is that the possibility of encountering a big dog may encourage the would-be thief to seek an easier target. No one is afraid of a little yappy dog; one good kick and it’s no longer a problem for the bad guy. Sad, but true.
- Speaking of security, consider a monitored home security system. If your home has a security system already installed, but you can’t afford the monthly monitoring fee, at least use the non-monitored alarm (usually a siren of some sort) so you and your neighbors are alerted if someone tries to break into your home. If you don’t know how to operate it, call the number on the keypad.
- Install a Ring doorbell video system. If you have a smartphone, you’ll be alerted when someone approaches your front door, or rings your door bell. An, if there’s a problem later on at your home or a neighbor’s home, you can go back through the video to see if it captured a picture of the culprit.
- Make sure you share contact information with both of your next-door neighbors and someone across the street. Most people are very willing to help out a neighbor.
- Change your routines. Do you always go grocery shopping on Mondays at 10 am? To the hairdresser or barber shop on the same day and time each month? Or take a long walk at the same time each day? Bad guys look for routines, so change it up.
- Here’s a routine that should not change – contact someone (a family member or friend) very regularly. Perhaps once a day or once a week, just to let them know you’re okay. Even a quick text message can do the trick.
- Consider some kind of monitored personal alert system – the kind you keep in a pocket, on your wrist, or around your neck.
- If you’re reasonably mobile, consider taking a self-defense class. It’s not always about force and bodily strength. I took a 2-hour seminar at Systema Berkoot in Sarasota and was amazed at what I saw and learned in that short time. Age, bad knees or a bit of arthritis won’t stop you from learning this amazing art. It’s not about confrontation, but about using physics and an attacker’s own bodily weaknesses against him. Did you know we all have pressure points? Or that you can easily escape someone’s grip on your arm?
- Finally, consider keeping one or more weapons near you at all times. Stow them around your house and garage. A weapon can be a gun, a knife, a stun gun, a baseball bat, bear or pepper spray, or even a golf club. If you want to stop an attacker or intruder before he gets close to you, a gun is your best choice. If you’re okay with letting things get up-close and personal before defending yourself, and you’re physically fit, a baseball bat or golf club may be all you need. A stun gun, pepper or bear spray, or knife is a defense of last resort – your attacker has to be within kissing distance for them to be effective. If you have physical limitations, seriously consider a gun. Age, weight, height, gender, etc. doesn’t matter – there’s a gun that will work for you. But what does matter is learning how to properly use a gun and understanding state and federal gun laws. Even grannies can safely learn how to shoot! Call your local gun shop for instructor recommendations.
Stay safe – someone loves you.
Other articles you may find interesting:
Would you like to learn more about estate planning, elder law, asset protection planning, probate, and Medicaid planning in an informal, no-obligation setting?
Sign up for one of our free, educational workshops here.