While you never want to have to think about experiencing an attack, personal safety should always be top of mind, especially as you age.

Estimates suggest that roughly 1 out of 10 adults over 60 experience some form of what is known as elder abuse, though researchers believe that crimes against adults are highly underestimated.

The Office for Victims of Crimes (under the Department of Justice) reports that while older adults are less likely to experience a violent crime than other populations, the impact is often far greater due to health issues, social isolation, and lack of access to financial resources.

At least half of all seniors who experience maltreatment are victims of a family member or acquaintance which may make them less likely to report the incident and suffer further.

You may not be able to avoid becoming a potential target, but you can certainly equip yourself with the tools, moves, and know-how to confidently defend yourself should the need arise. Don’t miss this essential guide to senior self-defense.

What Is Senior Self-defense?

While traditional self-defense capitalizes on agility, power, speed, and athleticism, senior self-defense is all about providing strategies for seniors to most efficiently move or use items at their disposal (or words) to quickly and effectively ward off an attacker.

The good news is that you don’t have to have any prior experience in self-defense or martial arts, nor do you need excessive strength, balance, or flexibility to learn senior self-defense.

Senior Self-defense Techniques

Senior self-defense lays a foundation for personal protection that incorporates a variety of moves, actions, and techniques that make you both look and feel emboldened.

Awareness of Surroundings

Changes in your vision, hearing, and reaction time as you age simply require you to be extra vigilant about scanning your surroundings to avoid trouble.

Does someone following you seem suspicious? Duck into a public place like a store or restaurant. Keep your eyes open – simply appearing more cognizant of your surroundings can send signals to would-be attackers that you’re in ‘alert’ mode.

Look the Part

Walk with purpose and confidence, even if you are utilizing a mobility aid, to avoid looking helpless and unguarded. And remember, actions like counting cash at the ATM or flaunting showy jewelry or accessories can increase your exposure to perpetrators looking for an ‘easy target’.

De-Escalation

Sometimes referred to as ‘verbal judo’, de-escalation techniques involve using words (or avoiding certain ones) to prevent increasing tension during an altercation which might lead to violence. This may come in especially handy during tense interactions with family members and acquaintances.

Remember, self-preservation is a priority so if avoiding escalation means quickly handing over your purse when a mugger demands it, do it and let them run away. You may face the hassle of lost money and replacing cards, but you also avoid a potentially life-threatening injury.

Cane Fu

Cane Fu – yes, you heard that right – is a self-defense technique that optimizes on the use of a cane to block punches, jab, swipe, hit, and defend. Prior to using force, however, experts always recommend using commanding, forceful language to thwart an attacker’s plan.

Criminals are often looking for an easy target and are going off a script they think will work. When you interrupt that process and illustrate you are not an easy target with loud, clear statements like “Go away! I can’t help you!”, it may change their mind.

Don’t Carry Weapons

While you can use your cane or other items like keys or an umbrella for protection, senior self-defense experts agree that carrying items like a gun, knife, pepper spray, or taser with you is not a great idea as those can easily be turned against you and cause severe injury.

Physical Defense

You can learn some martial art techniques in self-defense classes, but when in doubt during an attack, aim for sensitive areas like the eyes, throat, and groin. Even hanging your attacker up for a handful of seconds can give you enough time to get away. Always make getting away your goal!

Finding Senior Self-defense Classes

Senior self-defense is on the rise which means more classes and workshops may be available where you live. Good places to look include:

  • Local martial arts studios
  • Your community senior center or police station
  • R.A.D. for Seniors program
  • Free online instructional videos (like on YouTube)

Empowering Seniors

The very fact that you have some moves in your back pocket to defend yourself can actually make you more self-reliant and confident and even change the way you carry yourself. Would-be attackers, beware!

What self-defense techniques have you learned as an older adult? What other advice would you recommend for protecting yourself from harm? Please join the conversation!

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