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Self-Defense Techniques for Senior Citizens

By Lisa Jensen ; Updated October 25, 2017

Self-defense begins with awareness: awareness of your surroundings and also of your own abilities and limitations. For seniors, the most important first step may be preventing situations that would require physical self-defense in the first place. Nevertheless, there are techniques and behaviors that you can use to protect yourself.

Fitness and Balance

Any physical activity will improve balance, physical coordination, mental alertness and overall fitness, all of which are key to defending yourself. Physical conditioning also enhances cardiovascular function; remembering to breathe ensures optimal muscle and brain performance to help fend off an attack. Regular exercise can include a fitness, martial arts or yoga class; a daily walk; hiking; skiing; dancing; or other fun activities. Being in better physical condition can also improve confidence and reduce solitude. Seniors who are in groups or even pairs are less likely targets of an attack.

Check with your state or local agency on aging for free classes. Many community centers, YMCAs and private studios offer free or lower-cost classes designed specifically for seniors. If you have health concerns, talk with your health care provider, especially if you are beginning a new activity that is much more vigorous than what you have been doing.

Martial Arts

In addition to teaching balance, awareness and breathing, martial arts teach correct ways to punch, kick or immobilize attackers. Martial arts such as aikido or tai chi may appeal to seniors because they do not rely on physical strength to be effective. Aikido practice includes techniques using a wooden staff, which can be modified to use a cane or walking stick.

Physical Self-Defense

Be assertive and do not present yourself as an easy target. A thief or other perpetrator will look for a person who appears vulnerable and will not expect his victim to protest or fight back. Some seniors feel safer carrying pepper spray, a stun gun or firearm; however, you must know how to use any weapon safely and effectively, and remember that an attacker could turn the weapon against you. Consult with family members or your doctor as to whether you should be carrying any type of weapon.

Nonphysical Threats

Identity and financial thieves view senior citizens as easy targets. Never give personal information, including Social Security or driver’s license numbers; medical records; birth dates and addresses; or financial information, such as credit card or bank account numbers, over the phone, unless you have initiated the contact. Do not respond to or open emails soliciting such information. Consider locking your mailbox or using a post office box to prevent thieves from accessing your bills and statements.

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