Arming the Elderly: A Self-Defense Guide for Senior Citizens


For several years we have discussed important health issues in Northwest Senior News. Without question, maintaining optimum physical health in the later years, or the 4th quarter as I like to say, can lend to a more enjoyable retirement.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent violence of the riots and protests, I think it’s relevant to look at another critically important issue, and that is our personal safety.

I sure many of you saw the ugly video of an unprovoked attack on a 92-year-old New York City woman by a man with a rap sheet a mile long. His strike knocked the woman down, and she hit her head on a fire hydrant as she fell. If you care to review this tragic incident, you can click here for a YouTube video of it. Caution: The scene is disturbing.

I came across an article authored by Molly Carter on titled Arming the Elderly: A Self-Defense Guide for Senior Citizens. Please click on the link to view the complete write-up. I have summarized her key points.

Carter explains that 14 percent of seniors in the past year have experienced either physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; neglect; or financial exploitation. That’s alarming!

I know of two or our clients that were scammed by email or phony business venture schemes. They were financially exploited. Do NOT open any emails requesting personal information such as your phone number, date of birth, Social Security number, or any passwords. If in doubt, still do NOT open it. Have a knowledgeable person look it first! Don’t let them tease your curiosity!

The author lists twelve tips to avoid becoming an easy target.

  • Walk with purpose.
  • Keep your eyes up.
  • Know where the exits are.
  • Watch for suspicious people.
  • Avoid places that are known to be unsafe.
  • Don’t go places alone.
  • Run errands during the day.
  • Don’t linger in isolated places.
  • Don’t be distracted.
  • Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Keep your keys in your hand, ready to go.

I think these tips could summed up as situational awareness. Know what’s going on around you and be observant.

Carter encourages you not to be overly trusting. For example, you don’t want to open your door for someone that needs to “borrow” your phone.

She provides several other safety tips. This one deserves special attention: Improve your chances of evading criminals by staying active and fit. Seniors who live active lifestyles are faster, stronger, and have quicker reaction times than their peers. I’ll add that those who conduct themselves in this manner will be much less of a target for the bad guys.

That’s another reason to stay in robust health, keeping your weight at normal levels, and to stay physically fit. Evading danger is much easier for those that are.

The author discusses personal protection. She suggests walking with your fist wrapped around your keys with one key sticking out between your knuckles. This gives you a solid, makeshift weapon that can be used as a knife to slice or puncture. [This is more directed to people living in larger urban areas.]

A person can carry items such as a police whistle, a flashlight, mace [pepper spray] and a personal alarm.

She next discusses fighting or martial arts tips. Evading the confrontation is the first strategy. If the attacker demands your bag, don’t hand it to him. Throw it at his feet. That way he can’t grab your arm as easily. If you do end up in a fight, fight “as dirty as you can” Carter suggests. Poke his eyes, hit him in the balls, and punch him in the nose. If you are attacked from behind, throw your head backwards to throw the perp off his balance.

Carry a Concealed Weapon

Concealed carry is obviously a personal decision. Carter states three important considerations if you decide to carry.

  1. Have the right weapon.
  2. Be comfortable with it.
  3. Be willing to do what it takes.

Her main caution for semi-automatic pistols is that some seniors may not have the manual dexterity or strength to operate the slide. Her caution for revolvers is the finger strength required for the long pull. If you carry or decide to have a handgun at home, you will need to determine which one is best for you.

She next lists some recommended pistols and revolvers. She cautions against small-caliber hand guns for self-defense such as .22s because they don’t have enough stopping power. However, she stresses that “carrying a small gun is better than no gun at all.

I’ll comment that .22s have still killed lots of people. I have a former student that accidentally shot his 10 year-old brother in the back with a .22. It killed him.

Overcoming Obstacles and Limitations

The author emphasizes that it’s a smart idea to know your limitations when choosing a firearm to carry. A few issues that she mentions are arthritis, limited range of motion, poor eyesight, and any type of chronic pain.

One handy option for those dealing with vision issues is the consideration of having a laser light on your handgun. Carter offers the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .38 with the built-in laser light as an example.

If Something Bad Does Happen

If something does happen, be sure to report it to the proper authorities. She refers to an article on the FBI’s website titled Scams And Safety. Carter states that seniors can and should protect themselves. End