Empowering Seniors to Live in Safety

National Senior Safety Week
November 6 - 12, 2007

Today, seniors are enjoying the possibility of living independently and remaining in their homes for longer periods of time. Since some seniors may still be regarded as vulnerable or “easy-targets” for certain scams or crime, Canada Safety Council has dedicated its Senior Safety Awareness Week (November 6 – 12, 2007) to the empowerment of seniors living independently. Education and preparedness can enable seniors and their families, to have peace of mind and a sense of confidence when it comes to safety.

Here are some timely reminders of preserving that sense of security:

  • Secure your home: Have a well-lit exterior and ensure that the exterior lights are not accessible and will not be tampered with. Have your windows visible from the street. Reinforce doors and doorframes. Keep all doors and windows locked and curtains drawn. Keep valuables and money at the bank.
  • Know your Community: Have a good sense of your surroundings including your neighbours’ habits and vehicles and report suspicious activity. Consider joining a Neighborhood Watch program.
  • Do not open the door to strangers: No matter how well-dressed or kind strangers appear to be, do not unlock your door (even to the police) until you have taken all precautions to verify and confirm their identity. There are many deceptions used to have seniors lower their guard and unlock the door; so be sure and be safe. The weakest link in home security is when the occupant fails to lock up or opens the door to strangers. Seniors should practice role-playing different scenarios of having someone waiting on the other side of a locked door as you question them, until it becomes second nature. If you become a victim, don’t fight back. Instead, get a good description of the intruder.
  • When Out and About Walking or Shopping: Try to walk or shop with companions. Keep your money close to you and never leave it unattended. Don’t carry more cash than is necessary. Have your key ready when returning to your car or your home. If you are attacked, make as much noise as possible; do not pursue your attacker.
  • Other Tips: Be unpredictable. Vary your daily routine and outings. Consider giving the illusion of someone else living at home, such as a pair of big boots at the front door. Consider an alarm or personal monitoring system to use for emergencies. A monitoring system (worn as a pendant or wristband) offers the possibility of summoning help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can help in a medical emergency and can offer reassurance when needed.

Telemarketing Scams

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to telemarketing scams.
The Canada Safety Council has some advice for seniors when dealing with phone solicitations:

  1. Never give personal information to someone on the phone unless you initiated the call. Simply keep the rule of thumb that you will contact the company directly and provide the necessary information.
  2. If the caller claims to have a free prize for you, never accept to pay handling or shipping fees. This is a red flag as you should not have to send money for something that is free.
  3. Limited time offers may be pressure tactics. Always take the position that you need time to think about it and if you are still interested, you can call back. Ask how you may be able to contact the caller back.
  4. If a caller tries to convince you to not discuss this offer or service with anyone else, this is a warning sign. All the more reason to discuss this with family and friends.
  5. It is best to have the verbal phone offer in writing. If they are not willing to offer you this service, do not deal with them.

Whether it is for magazine subscriptions, vacation packages, home-contractor offers, charity requests or free winnings, know to hang up when the conversation becomes a pressured sales pitch. Role playing with family or friends will help you practice ending unwanted calls. You don’t need to explain yourself or apologize….just be firm and hang up.