Active Aging Presented by Public Health Seattle-King County
For many of us, going about our day and taking care of tasks is a significant part of maintaining independence and feeling a sense of purpose and dignity. Unfortunately, there will always be people who want to take advantage of those they perceive as unable to defend themselves.
It can also be intimidating or scary to walk alone, particularly at night. It can feel like a nasty surprise is lurking around every corner, ready to grab your purse or wallet and run.
But you can still take care of the things you need to without being helpless or an easy target. Below are some basic self-defense steps to protect yourself from would-be assailants and get home safely.
Being aware of your surroundings is your first line of defense. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, and make eye contact with people you pass on the sidewalk. Try to maintain a confident stride, and plan your route so that you don’t get lost. Potential aggressors can spot someone who looks confused or out of place and use that to their advantage.
Purchase a whistle or hand-held alarm that you can attach to your keys or another handy object. If you get into a bad situation, you can make a loud noise to alert others to your situation. This will often scare an attacker off and perhaps draw good Samaritans to your aid. If you don’t have a whistle or alarm, shout and make as much noise as you can if you’re in trouble.
Use What You Have
If you’re in danger, use whatever you have available to defend yourself. That could be your car keys or handbag, or even a bag of groceries. Swinging a bag containing cans or glass bottles can be an effective deterrent for a criminal who sees you as an easy target. If you walk with a cane, you can try to use it, too. Canes can help strike weak points at arm’s length and showing that you’re serious about defending yourself. Just be careful if you need the cane to support you while you stand. You don’t want to lose your balance and topple over. You can also purchase pepper spray or another deterrent and carry it for added protection.
Find Their Weak Spot
Everyone has the same set of vulnerable areas, no matter how big and frightening they might seem. Aim for the eyes, nose, knees, and groin as you fight back to have the best chance of fending off an attacker. Once they’re on their heels, you can make your escape—whether that’s to your car, a nearby business, or just a crowded area.
Know Your Value
When faced with an aggressor, our first instinct is often to try our hardest to hang onto whatever they want to take, whether it’s a handbag, an expensive watch, or a treasured piece of jewelry. But if you get into a dangerous situation, remember that no money or possession is worth more than your life. Most attackers will leave you alone after getting what they want, so it could be safest to comply with their demands and then go to the police and report the crime.
Many attackers target older people because they see them as weak or easy targets. But there are actually several different types of martial arts and self-defense training tailored to seniors that can help you in the event of an attack. Look for these programs in your area and learn the basics to help you feel safer as you go about your day.
It’s scary and uncomfortable to think about ending up in a dangerous situation like this, but these things are all too common. It’s never your fault if you end up on the receiving end of a mugging or attack. Luckily, you can avoid the worst while maintaining your independence with a bit of know-how.
Active Aging is presented by Public Health – Seattle & King County. Public Health- Seattle & King County recognizes the important and untold stories of innovation, service, and sacrifice by the Black community and supports efforts to improve equity and achieve social justice. We want everyone to get health insurance and access health care. Visit www.kingcounty.gov/health for health insurance, flu and COVID-19 testing locations.