Self-Defense For Seniors: How to Protect Yourself

Self-Defense For Seniors How to Protect Yourself

Everybody deserves to feel safe and secure in public spaces – especially the elderly. There’s greater need now than in years past for self-defense. While the elderly might not need to use self-defense tips on a regular basis, memorizing them can help provide a sense of confidence when in an unsafe situation. Sometimes, having a strong self-defense foundation – even if you never use it – can alleviate stress. Self-defense knowledge can bring a physical and mental health boost. Similarly, tools like medical alert systems can provide a sense of safety and security against the threat of falling.

This guide will discuss why self-defense training is important for seniors, how to avoid being targeted, basic techniques for fending off an attack, and how to find a self-defense class that fits your needs. This article should give you the confidence to take control of your own safety.

Why Seniors Should Consider Self-Defense Training

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to property crimes. In fact, a report from the U.S. Department of Justice notes that over 90% of all crimes against seniors were theft or burglary[1]. Younger people are more likely to be victims of violent crimes, but seniors are still at risk.

As we age, our bodies become less physically reactive. Learning some self-defense tactics can help put your mind at ease. It’s not very likely that you’ll need to put what you learn to use, but you will be prepared if you ever feel uncomfortable. 

Self-defense training can also increase your confidence. In an aging body, a confidence boost is actually very important and can return some autonomy to seniors. It’s important to remember that self-defense training isn’t just for worst-case scenarios. You’ll gain tons of other physical benefits, like coordination, flexibility, balance, and strength. Feeling prepared and safe in the world can reduce stress and might improve your mental health.

As you learn self-defense techniques, you will develop a keen awareness of your environment and an ability to identify potential threats to your safety. You will feel prepared to address threats from a myriad of sources in public. One of the most valuable things you can learn is how to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

How To Avoid Being Targeted

The best way to stay safe is to prevent an attack before it happens. We think about attack prevention in the same way we think about fall prevention: you will have your training in case of an attack, or a medical alert system in case of a fall, but you should have the tools available in case you need to use them. These strategies work together to bring you a greater sense of safety.

You can avoid being targeted by focusing on your body language[2]. The way you move through the world is a significant tell for those on the offensive. Assailants look for a specific set of mannerisms and bodily cues in their victims. 

  • Avoid using a phone or map while out walking.  Looking down signifies that you are distracted and not paying attention to your surroundings. You can study your route before leaving and if you need help stop in at a store for navigational support.

  • Regularly scan around you in order to be aware of your surroundings.  This practice allows you to have a greater sense of possible threats.

  • Walk with confidence.

  • Use good posture. Hunching over or lowering your gaze suggests that you are fearful and makes you more prone to being a victim.

  • Consider making eye contact with the people around you. Keep it brief. The best tactic is only to demonstrate awareness.

  • Stay in populated, familiar, and/or well-lit places at night. You can also use mini flashlights or other devices on your keyring to make you feel safer when it gets dark.

  • Try to operate under the radar. This means putting away valuables and anything that might draw attention to you in a crowd. 

Basic Techniques for Fending Off An Attack

You might need to implement some basic tactics to fend off an assailant. Your own safety is the most important aspect of any defensive technique you employ. If an attacker wants your wallet, money, or other personal effect, give it to them right away.  These valuables are worth nothing compared to your life. If you find yourself in this situation, toss the wallet or other items on the ground in front of the attacker.  Keep as much space as possible between yourself and the individual.

However, a physical altercation might be unpreventable. In this case, you will need a few strategies to best protect yourself:

1. Be loud. Use your voice, personal alarm, or whistle. This is a great time to use any keychain devices you might have. Let people around you know that you need help. Sometimes, a noise is enough to ward off an attacker[3].

2. Use anything you can to fend off the attacker. You can use car keys or anything that you carry in a pocket or bag. If you have a cane, there are several tips for cane self-defense[4]. Stun guns charge your assailant with a high-voltage, non-lethal charge. You can purchase stun guns that look like flashlights or cameras and fit into a small bag. Check with your local laws to see if stun guns are legal in your area. You might need a permit to carry one. Pepper spray, on the other hand, is legal in all states for self-defense. Make sure to check local laws regarding pepper spray strength and size. This easily stowed spray will burn your attacker’s nose and eyes while making it very difficult for them to see. 

3. Focus on your attacker’s vulnerable areas. You should aim for the groin, knees, nose, neck, and eyes. Exploiting these sensitive areas can maximize your impact. You will decide which vulnerable area to attack based on your own abilities and how the attacker is positioned in relation to you. Poke your fingers, keys, or knuckles into your attacker’s eyes for a low-input, high-impact defense tactic. 

How To Find A Self-Defense Class For Seniors

The next step of your self-defense journey is putting all of these tips and strategies to use. Signing up for formal self-defense training can instill a sense of confidence. You will get tons of practice with other students, which is more realistic than practicing on your own. Learning these strategies with a group can help you feel more empowered and motivated. Your teacher can also provide help if you are struggling with any part of the practice. 

Your community likely has several options for self-defense classes. Check with the public library, senior center, police department, or YMCA to see about their offerings. Martial arts schools are another viable option, especially for women-only classes. Many of these schools now offer senior-specific classes. Think about whether a senior-specific or gender-specific class might work best for you.

Ready to sign up for a self-defense class? These tips can help you find the right class for your needs and abilities:

  • Look into the instructor’s background. Do they have credentials or certifications? Do they have knowledge of street attacks?
  • Check if the strategies and tactics are adaptable for older students.
  • Prioritize classes that include situational awareness in addition to strategies for talking down an assailant.
  • Make sure the training is brief. If you feel dedicated to a long-term self-defense practice, then try to find courses through a martial arts school. Otherwise, self-defense training workshops should be on the shorter side.
  • Find a self-defense training option that’s within your price range. Some places offer these courses free of charge. 
  • Watch a class before you sign up to take it. This way, you can make sure you’re comfortable with the techniques and how they are taught.

Why a Medical Alert System Is a Great Way to Stay Safe in a Public Space

Prevention is the best method for staying safe, both in self-defense and falls. However, prevention does not always guarantee safety, no matter how much you prepare. Alert1 encourages members to engage in self-defense training for potential attacks, but to also purchase a medical alert system for protections

Self-defense training empowers you. Alert1 wants to empower you, too. A medical alert system provides you with a sense of security in your home and on the go

A medical alert system is a great addition to your self-defense plan. Once you press the button of your emergency alarm, you will be connected to a trained agent on our response team at a 24/7 Command Center. The representative will stay on the line with you until help reaches you.

Your safety is priceless. Alert1 offers flexible and affordable monthly plans to work with your budget. You will never be locked into long, expensive contracts. You will not be charged for multiple button pushes or “false alarms.” 

Alert1 products are great for aiding in an emergency. Whether in the home or on the go, you’ll have the peace of mind to move confidently. Fall detection technology also provides an extra security boost—if you are unable to press the button, these devices will automatically connect you to the Command Center if a fall is sensed.



[1] Morgan, Rachel E. 2014, Nove. Crimes Against the Elderly, 2003-2013. U.S. Department of Justice. Crimes Against the Elderly, 2003-2013.

[2] Kardian, Steve. 2017, Aug. 5. The Seven-Second Rule: How to Avoid Being an Easy Target. NBC News. The Seven-Second Rule: How to Avoid Being an Easy Target.

[3] Heffernan, Lisa. 2016, April 27. Not Just Pepper Spray: Apps and Devices to Keep College Students Safe. NBC News. Not Just Pepper Spray: Apps and Devices to Keep College Students Safe.

[4] Derrick. Cane Fu – Effective Self Defense for Seniors. Cane Fu – Effective Self Defense for Seniors.