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Being Elderly:  Staying Safe Living Alone

Growing older has never been particularly easy.  Some would argue that it is getting easier with the new technologies that we have to enhance the quality of life in the latter years of life.  They would say that with all of the new medicines that we have, people can feel good for more years.

Others would say that we only need the medicines and technology to feel better because there is so much in life that is dwindling in quality.  Diabetes is rampant where it used to be non-existent, heart disease likewise.  Technology is helpful for staying in contact with family and friends, but in times past, family and friends were right by your side.  And, for the most part, our elderly population is wading into these late years of life nearly, if not completely, alone.  Families tend not to be closely knit anymore.

Because of this, the elderly find themselves in a very lonely place, mentally, but also physically.  There may be people around them, but most likely are not people that they feel connected to from their past, & may even be untrustworthy.  So here are a few basic protection tips for those elderly who find themselves walking the paths later in life by themselves, or nearly so.

  1. Lock your doors/windows.  In many older neighborhoods, especially in small towns, this has been historically unnecessary.  In today’s climate, it is necessary.  Perhaps not so much to protect belongings as to protect personal safety.  Drug culture is rampant, even in small, rural communities.  One of the most common ways for those on drugs to get what they feel they need is to steal it.  If you happen to walk back into your house while a theft is in progress, it is a very dangerous situation.  If your doors are locked, it makes it more difficult for the thief to enter.  It also gives you an early warning if you notice that the door has been tampered with so that you can go somewhere else & ask for help instead of walking into a dangerous situation.
  2. Don’t always answer the phone. Most phones are equipped with caller ID now.  If you have one of these phones, use it.  Screen numbers that you know.  If there is a call from an unknown number, they can leave a message.  Contrary to old time opinion, it is not rude to do this.  There are many people out there who would like to get at any available financial resource that you have, even if it’s a few dollars.  Give them less to work with & they’ll give up more readily.  If you have a message on an answering machine from someone who is asking for money, or who says that your bank account or credit card has been hacked or your identity stolen, speak with someone you trust who can listen to the message with you.  Then call your financial institution yourself to confirm the call was from them.  Do not call the number that was left in the message.  Just call the regular number that you would call to contact your institution. 
  3. Consider a pet. If you live completely on your own, a dog can be an early warning sign that something is not right.  While they can be a pain to take care of, dogs often hear things that we cannot & warn us about it.  They’re also great for starting to bark & scare away a prowler.  You do not have to get a breed that is known for guarding in order for it to be effective, a simple breed that you enjoy will warn you just as well.
  4. If you are actively online, you may want to hire someone that can take care of privacy issues on your computer and install an antivirus software for you.  Ask how often it will need to be looked at and updated & how much it will cost.  Protecting your identity online can be challenging.
  5. Cell phone. If you do not have a cell phone, consider a very basic one from which you can access 911.  Most cell phone companies have very basic, inexpensive plans if you do not plan to use the phone regularly.  Having one can keep you safe in case of emergencies.  If your vehicle breaks down & you need help, 911 services can generally locate your phone using GPS. If you fall & have your phone in your pocket or purse, you can use it to call for help.  In order for this to be effective, however, you’ll need to be familiar with the phone & how it works.
  6. Network of people. We’ve been talking about staying safe for those who are alone, but the best way to stay safe is to have a network of close friends/family by your side.  If your family members are untrustworthy, find friends who are.  There are many circumstances in life in which safety is more easily accomplished by just having someone around.  If you do not have a network like this, make an effort to start one. If you live in an apartment building, you need not invite someone into your home, but perhaps arrange to have coffee with a neighbor in a common room or lobby where you can get to know one another.  Call a friend that you’ve been meaning to call to re-connect.  Check in on a family member you haven’t heard from in a while.  Having a network of people around you can keep you safe & mentally stronger in your later years.

Safety is a difficult subject for all of us to think about because we do not want to think about the bad things that could happen.  Taking a few moments to consider what we can do to increase our safety without becoming paranoid, however, can increase our peace of mind & also prevent something bad from happening!  If you are not elderly and are reading this article, consider talking to an elderly friend about how they can remain safe in their situation.  Let’s help one another!


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