ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Safety Tips for Seniors

Safety tips for seniors


Although as a Senior I like to think I am wiser and more aware than when I was younger, the truth of the matter is that I, like you, have slowed down slightly, my vision and hearing aren’t as acute as they once were, and I’m a little more stiff, and prone to losing my balance.  In addition, I seem to have become a target for scam artists and thieves.  I need to protect myself better.
So, if you are like me, you might want some of these tips:
I’ve researched this issue and have incorporated what I’ve read and what others have suggested in addition to my own ideas, drawn from my own experiences.   I’m certain that you, the reader could find additional tips to add to my list.   The tips here:

Safety at Home

From Intruders and fire

Even the safest of neighborhoods is potentially dangerous.  Do take some simple precautions.

·        Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
·        Have an emergency escape plan and pre-arrange for a family member or friend to help you escape, if needed.  If you live alone and there is no friend nearby, let your local police and fire department know you are older and alone.
·        Consider a burglar alarm for added security.
·        Install deadbolt locks.
·        Have extra locks on all windows so they can’t be forced open.
·        Keep your doors and windows locked even when you are home or when you are just going for “a minute.”
·        Never open your door automatically.  Install and use a peephole.
·        Don’t leave notes on your door when going out.
·        Leave lights on, using a timer varying on/off when you are gone for an extended period of time.
·        Cancel deliveries of newspapers, etc. when going away for more than a day.
·        Let neighbors and police know when you are away for several days or more.
·        Do not put a spare key outside – no matter where you hide it, it will be found.  Instead, give extra keys to one or more of your neighbors that you trust.
·        Purchase and use a medical alert system (about $500 a year) – there are several different vendors.  I know about Medic-Alert and Life-Alert, but there are others as well.
·        Have fire extinguishers and smoke detectors on every floor – easy to reach and know how to use them.
·        If you still smoke, do not smoke in bed, or if you are sleepy.
·        Light up the night.  Have nightlights inside and outside – have some of them be movement sensitive.
·        Check the identification of all workmen and delivery people before opening the door.  If you have not called for that service, excuse yourself for a minute (keeping the door closed and locked) and looking up the number for the provider yourself (not the number they offer you) call and make sure this is a legitimate caller.
·        Never give information out over the phone indicating that you are alone or that you won’t be home at a certain time.

from falling and other accidents

The experts say that loss of balance and falling is the problem seniors face most often – much of the time because they are a little anxious about falling and so look down instead of straight ahead.  Since your head is the heaviest part of your body (yes, even if you are overweight) you are throwing yourself off balance. 
·        Stand straight.
·        Work on improving your balance through exercise classes and physical activity.
·        Create opportunities to be social – to get out and about and be with others doing things that are enjoyable and stimulating.
·        Get enough sleep – we probably need at least 8 hours a night.
·        Tack down or remove small rugs.
·        Make sure there are no loose wires to trip over – tack them down against the baseboard where possible.
·        Be careful of wet floors – if you must walk on them use shoes with treaded rubber soles (Crocs work as well as other kinds.)
o   Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on surfaces that may get wet.
·        Install grab bars beside your toilet, in your shower and bathtub.
·        Use a grabber to help you reach things on high shelves.
·        Try to keep things you use often close at hand – this might mean a re-arrangement of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
·        Stoves can be dangerous – be careful about what’s near the stove, have on and off positions marked clearly, and avoid wearing long, loose clothing when cooking.
·        Use a solid step stool or ladder when you need to use your hands instead of a grabber. 
o   If on a second or higher step of a ladder, be sure you position yourself to be near something else you can hold onto for added stability – a chair back usually works for me.
o   Be aware of your pets especially when you are trying to get down from the step ladder.
·        When walking down stairs (usually more difficult than walking up) stand straight with your head held high, you can see the steps below you without having to look down.
o   Hold your feet slightly to the side instead of full forward, it makes it safer.
o   Hold on to a banister and go down slowly.
o   Reduce the load – don’t carry packages that will throw you off balance, break them up into smaller and more manageable packages.
o   If wearing a long robe, or skirt, be sure to lift it slightly when walking either up or down stairs so you don’t trip on it.
o   If possible throw things over the banister and down the stairs if you are sure they won’t break from their fall.
·        Light the way – use night lights and other lights on or near stairs, halls and on the way to your bathroom.
·        Have a phone and light where you can reach it from bed.
o   Keep emergency numbers on a card in large print near your bed and other strategic places so you can see it in an emergency.
o   You might also program your phones and keep a list of the numbers representing specific people.
·        Electricity, wires and circuits:  Have a professional check all of these to make sure you aren’t at risk of either tripping over something or being electrocuted because of damaged or incorrect wiring.

From scams and identify thefts

·        Never offer information to strange callers, or e-mail solicitors.  Do not give out your social security card, your birth date, etc. unless you have personally initiated the call or request to a vendor you are sure of.
·        Be particularly careful of anyone offering to give you money.  That’s The Trojan Horse to get you to give them what they need to scam you.
·        One of the latest scams is to have a caller cry hysterically on the phone pretending to be a relative of yours, or with a relative of yours needing money.  It’s probably a scam.
·        If possible, do your banking and bill paying by direct deposit and on line.  This is actually safer than the potential of someone grabbing your mail.
·        Oh, and if you can protect your mailbox, either by having a locked box, or a slot in your garage instead of an external mailbox, do it.

Medications and Supplements

As we age we tend to have more and more medications prescribed and it can be confusing as to when and how and how many to take and with what.
·        Review your medicines frequently with your doctor or pharmacist.
·        Check expiration dates and get rid of old meds.
·        Make sure medicines are clearly labeled.
·        Do not borrow medications from others.
·        Create a reminder system so that you don’t take your medications more frequently – or less frequently than prescribed.
·        Make a list of everything you are taking, including vitamins, and share the list with your primary care physician.
·        If your pharmacist hasn’t given you information about the pills you take – ask for them, know what the potential side effects are – and whether you should or shouldn’t take a particular pill with food.
·        Learn whether anything you are taking makes you tired or dizzy and if so don’t drive while under the effect of these drugs.
·        Consider alcohol a debilitating drug and recognize it can effect your balance and reflexes.

New Relationships

Well, we’ve aged – but we haven’t died!
·        Although dating can be fun at any age, the same safety tips we give teens apply to seniors.  The potential for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) exists no matter your age.
·        If using a dating service, don’t be gullible, desperate, or in a hurry to meet your potential new mate.  Spend lots of time on e-mail checking them out.  If they seem too hurried and resist your reasonable questions, take it as a warning side and end the conversation.
·        Use the phone once you are more comfortable and get to really know how that other person thinks before agreeing to meet him or her.
·        Finally, meet on neutral grounds in a safe place – not too near your own home or office.  Have lunch or coffee and an escape route.
·        Never, never, never lend money until you are engaged or married to this person.

outside – sidewalk and street

As we age we appear more vulnerable and easier to victimize.  Remember that most bad guys are looking for an easy target.  Don’t let yourself be one.
·        Be aware of your surroundings at all times, whether on the street, in a shopping center, and even in the assumed safety of the mall
·        Walk tall and strongly.  Look healthy and able to take care of yourself.
·        Women: hold your purse tightly close to your side.  Men: Keep your wallet in an inside pocket.
·        Do not have your jewelry showing. 
·        Do not carry large amounts of cash.
·        Take a walking stick – even if you don’t need it it’s a great potential weapon.
·        Do not walk down dark streets or alley ways even if they are shortcuts.
·        If there aren’t a lot of other people around and you are walking alone, stay close to the road and even in the road if necessary, do not stay close to buildings, because that’s where someone might hide and jump out to grab you.
·        At night, where light clothing, carry a flashlight and be doubly-aware.
·        If you see people and feel uncomfortable, respect your instincts and take a detour to avoid them.
·        Do not talk on your cell phone because it is a distraction from you being aware of your surroundings and it is also an invitation for someone to reach out and grab it. 
o   On the other hand, you might want to be in touch with someone on the other end of the phone while you are walking so that they will be aware if anything bad happens to you.  So arrange to call someone and keep the phone on and in your pocket so that they can hear you and your surroundings – but don’t let the phone be obvious.
·        Where ever possible avoid streets if you see uncollected garbage piled about – this suggests a bad neighborhood.
·        If taking public transportation sit as close to the driver or conductor as possible.
·        Have your key ready when approaching your front door.


Let’s face it – this is a vanity point for all of us and potentially a great inconvenience.  But, the truth is we have lost some hearing and seeing ability – especially at night.
·        Get proper driving glasses – if you only need them for driving, keep them in the car and use them.
·        Make sure your windows and headlights are clean.
·        If necessary, get extra mirrors – especially if turning your head isn’t as easy as it once was.
·        Drive on well lit streets, even if it takes you a little out of your way.
·        If driving on the freeway is less comfortable than it once was, consider driving home from your evening event on main streets instead of the freeway.
·        Be aware of stiffness in your neck which can make it harder to look over your shoulder.
·        If you have arthritis in your knee, or other leg pain, it might be more difficult to take your foot quickly from gas to brake.
·        If possible, choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes.
·        Drive defensively – with NO distractions.
·        Listen to the concern of those who love you – they may be noticing your limitations and potential to harm yourself or others before you notice it.
·        There are safety courses for seniors.  Check with the DMV.
·        Gather information about public transport possibilities.  There may be busses or light rails convenient for you.
·        In some cases you might be eligible for special pick-up and delivery services.
·        Try, where ever possible to travel with companions rather than alone.
·        Keep your purse and packages where they are less likely to be seen or grabbed
·        Never pick up hitchhikers
·        Keep your gas tank full so you never run out unexpectedly
·        Check the front and back seats of your car when returning to it.
·        If your car breaks down, pull over to a safe area and stay inside your car until help comes.  Do not accept help from strangers, only from police or other emergency vehicles.


·        Carry your purse close to you.
·        Park only in well lit areas – preferably close to where the stores are located
·        Use debit or credit cards and carry little cash
·        Plan to accompany other people when going to and from car to stores.


·        Where possible use direct deposit to avoid having your checks stolen.
·        Seniors may get free or discounted rates at banks – check with yours.
·        Do not get conned into withdrawing money for anyone but yourself.
·        Use a safety deposit box for your valuables.


211 – United Way


Aging and Adult Services
Santa Clara County, CA
Archstone Foundation

CA Dept. on Aging

CA Telephone Access

Council on Aging
San Jose, CA
Eldercare Locator

Fall Prevention Center of Excellence

Farewell to Falls

Heart of the Valley Senior Services
Santa Clara, CA
Home Safety Services

National Center for Injury Prevention
Atlanta, GA
National Council on Aging

National Institute on Aging Information center

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
Los Angeles, CA
Rebuilding Together
Wash. D.C.
Senior Services Referrals,pdf(796k)

Silicon Valley Healthy Aging Project
Santa Clara County, CA

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