February 20, 2012

Senior Security: Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones With These Simple Hints

Did I forget to cover an important topic? The post of a few days ago, What's Best: Aging in Place or a Retirement Community, provided several links to resources to help you decide what might be best for your satisfying retirement living decision. But one topic that was not addressed is the issue of security for seniors. Home invasions, burglaries, robberies, and other crimes are not restricted to older folks. But, news reports make it clear we are usually easier targets.

We are more likely to open a door when someone rings the bell. We are more trusting of a "repair person" who says he is checking for some type of utility issue in the neighborhood. Often our homes are older, meaning the locks may be less secure and the windows harder to lock. Forgetting to close the garage door is not uncommon.

The bottom line comes down to security for you and your property. Here are a some common sense steps you can take to protect yourself in your home:

*Spend some time walking around your home, both inside and out. Where are places someone could gain access (doors, windows, sliding patio doors). What type of security devices are installed now? What might need to be upgraded?

* Are your front and rear door areas well lit at night? Criminals love dark places.

*If mobility is a problem for you, consider installing exterior cameras so you can see what is going on outside your home or who is at the front door. If your budget is too tight, consider installing a camera that isn't actually hooked up to anything. Bad people don't know that and will shy away from homes with cameras.

*All exterior doors should have strong dead bolt locks. Almost any key lock can be picked, but properly installed dead bolts will keep away all but the most determined thieves.

*If you have a large doggy door you have a large hole in the side of your home. It may not be convenient, but sliding a locking panel down at night is a step you should consider. Also, don't forget to have a good lock on the door into the home from the garage. If you leave the garage door up or someone gains entry, that is an open passage into your house.

* Windows should have solid locks as well. If your windows slide open and closed, simple channel thumb locks are available at any hardware store.

* A peep hole in your front door should be installed if there is no way to see who is at the door. Never, ever open a door if you don't know who is on the other side.

*Have a can of pepper-spray by each door. If you have any question about who you are opening to door to, have the can in your hand for quick use.

* Keep window shades or blinds down at night. Don't keep large quantities of cash at home and store all valuable papers in a safety deposit box at your bank. If you have guns, keep them securely locked and out of sight.

For many folks the wisest course is to install a home security system. These can be basic and effective with alarms rigged to your doors and windows. For more protection, you can add motion detectors and even alarms that tell you if a water heater or clothes washer is spewing water all over the floor. One caution: pick a company with a good reputation that provides constant monitoring. The false security you have from a company that lets you down when you most need it isn't worth saving a few dollars a month.

As we age, health concerns become more important, and potentially more dangerous. An alarm that you wear around your neck or as a watch can be triggered by you if you fall or hurt yourself and can't get to a phone. Much like the home security systems, pushing the button summons help to you when you might need it to save your life. The costs are very reasonable.

As more of us stay in our homes for as long as possible, our safety and security takes on more importance. The hints and ideas presented here are basic steps most anyone can take. Obviously there is no guarantee that you can completely keep yourself from being a victim of a crime no matter how many locks you install. But, being proactive, assessing your situation,  and doing what you can to make your home environment as uncomfortable as possible to criminals, makes it that much more comfortable for those who live inside.

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post, in part, by the home security company, ADT . I have been a customer of theirs in the past. Luckily, I never had to use the system due to a break-in, but I did feel much safer when I had to be away from my family for business travel over 150 days a year.

Whether you avail yourself of their services or not, security and protection are things that cannot be ignored. Take the time to do something today to protect you and your loved ones. I want you to stay a reader of satisfying retirement for years to come.


  1. Just a thought: If your car is parked close to your front door, one might have the keys (and the accompanying "panic button" alarm) in your hand and at the ready for questionable callers.

    1. Good idea. Push the button and the blaring car alarm will confuse and scare away the bad guy. I hadn't thought of that before, Steve, but that is a simple, effective idea!

  2. Please note: there was a comment left earlier for a window shade company that was nothing more than a promotional plug. It has been deleted.

    I encourage bloggers or those with a legitimate tie to a particular post to add a subtle link. But, "comments" that are nothing but an attempt to get free advertising will be deleted as soon as I see them.

    I trust my readers and those looking to this blog for solid information will understand.

  3. Bob, good article. In the current times security will become more and more important, and not only to seniors. We live in a great neighborhood where people look out for each other, but most of us still have security systems installed (unfortunately there is a meth problem in the South, and breakins are one of the only types of crime we see here.) I also believe in backup, which takes the form of a trusted handgun or two, coupled with a tactical shotgun. The courts have essentially ruled that the police are not truly there to protect everyone from every crime out there, so people have to be willing and able to defend themselves. Saw a wonderful article recently on why surrendering to criminals is not the way to go, since it usually winds up in disaster. Whatever your political persuasion, you will have to learn to defend yourself, either through passive means like those you recommended, or more active means like security systems and arming yourself.

    1. I understand your point of view, but I would never have a gun in my home. No matter how many safeguards taken, especially with grandkids in our life, I would never take that risk.

      I'll stick with a good security system and common sense. But, I do certainly agree that ultimately we are responsible for a lot of our own security.

    2. Bob, I understand yours as well. Unless someone is very much aware of how to safeguard handguns, whether at home or on your person, you are a threat to others. And if you are the kind of person (I am not saying yourself, just theoretically) that could not pull the trigger when necessary, do not arm yourself - you are as much as danger to yourself as others at that point.

    3. I was the #1 sharpshooter in my Army basic training cycle with an M-16. I haven't picked up a weapon since and won't.

    4. Ditto - United States Air Force basic training, M-16 qualified. I haven't picked up a weapon since and won't.

  4. I've always wondered about the "keep no cash around" recommendation. Or for that matter, not having but a small amount on your person. If you find yourself ambushed in some way (and even with guns available should you so choose, trying to get to them may be perilous in itself) if all you can do is say "ain't got nuttin'" I wonder if that is going to offer you a safe conclusion. Sure, you don't lose anything. But, and this is just a conjecture, I wonder if having $100 or $200 on hand to offer up quickly might be insurance for a rapid departure of the perpetrator as opposed to the potential for violence that may be inflicted to make you fess up to where the money is. Just thinking. I'd be curious if any law enforcement types have any thought on this one.

    1. I'd agree that some cash at home at home is a good thing, for reasons as basic as an electrical failure kills you local ATM machine or the ability to use credit cards if you need something. The post mentions "large amounts of cash" and that I agree with. But a few hundred available for emergencies, or as you suggest, to mollify a thief, makes sense.

      For the same reason I'd never leave the house cashless. You can't predict when a debit or credit card is not going to work.

      I hope this entire discussion is theoretical and that none of us is faced with this type of situation.

  5. I love this discussion, so perfect for aging and the events in the world.I love the civil discussion about a weapon in the house.How nice to see facts and rational and RESPECT for both sides of the fence.Makes me think about issues,focus on my situation and make plans for the future.NEVER can you be too safe! the advice to question everything,everyone,take nothing for granted,not be afraid to question people/place or thing could save your life or someone you love.Gone is the days of being "polite" it could get you seriously hurt or killed.Thanks again Bob for a perfect topic.

    1. You are quite welcome. I learn as much as anyone. Banjo Steve's suggestion about using your car alarm panic button to scare of bad people was one I would have never thought of.

      Guns are an important topic. Each of us has a particular feeling about their place in our lives. I always hope we can have a civil diologue about important issues like this. Chuck Y made his point, I made mine will respecting his, and he responded in kind. Perfect.

      Now, if we could just get our leaders in Washington to show the same civility to each other can you imagine what a nicer place this would be?

  6. They say a dog is a great deterrent. However, some years back I came home to find that someone had broken in through the only window sheltered from view. They made a quick trip through the house, grabbing some cash and some jewelry I was sentimental about, including my mother's wedding ring and a gold Buddha pendant I bought when I lived in Bangkok.

    Where was my dog? Sleeping on my bed.

    That window now is more secure. The dog is even less of a guard dog now. She is so old and deaf she doesn't even hear me come in the door when she is sleeping right in front of it. I love her anyway.

    Great tips about security. We have to balance our safety and security awareness with how we want to live our lives. Good advice on all points.

    1. I guess it has to be certain type of dog!

      I must be lucky. Recently I was in a large meeting where fully half the people had experienced some sort of crime at their home. We have had a car stolen twice (same car!) but no crimes in our house. I would find that very disturbing.

  7. That killing of the older couple in Phoenix was really scary- wasn't it?

    Although we have a number of guns, and both of us are great shots, none are loaded for anything but the coyotes that get too close to the door. Those are pellet guns. Otherwise we both continue to target shoot pretty often. I don't think I could shoot a human. I think a gun just escalates things anyway. Nothing I own is worth a shot.

    I don't keep pepper spray. My dad once accidentally sprayed himself. Ow! I am afraid I would spray myself rather than the person at the door. Best not to answer that door- keeping both of us safe:)
    Never thought about the doggie door....good point.

    Great topic.

    1. We're still hunting for the right dog for our family, so the doggie door is on my mind.

      Your dad spraying himself with pepper spray...that couldn't have been pleasant.


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