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Seniors Guidebook to Safety and Security

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Who is this guide intended for?

This guide is for seniors, their family members, care-givers, friends, and anyone else who may find it useful. It is not meant to include everything but tries to answer some common concerns when it comes to seniors' safety and security. Our goal is to raise awareness of seniors' safety issues to improve their quality of life.

The information in this guide can also be used to help people and their loved ones discuss this topic to help recognize a potential crime situation and show how to reduce or remove the risk.

We hope that readers will find the information useful.

What is elder abuse?

Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Many victims are people who are older, frail, vulnerable and cannot help themselves and depend on others to meet their basic needs. Abusers of older adults are both women and men.

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as, "Single or repeated acts, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."

In general, elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act of violence, mistreatment or neglect of older adults at the hands of any individuals in situations of power or trust, including: spouses, children, other family members, friends, caregivers and service providers. It can occur in either private residences or facilities.

Elder abuse can take many forms:

  • Neglect (by others).
  • Physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.
  • Psychological and emotional abuse.
  • Financial exploitation (stealing or misusing an elderly person's money or possessions).
  • Institutional abuse (overcrowded, substandard and/or unsanitary living environments).
  • Violation of rights (restricting liberty and privacy).
  • Spiritual abuse (restricted or denied religious and spiritual practices, customs or traditions).
  • Abandonment.

Elder abuse is never acceptable. If you or someone you know is being abused, report it to the police!

Indicators of elder abuse

While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs there could be a problem are:

  • A sudden change in behavior or appearance.
  • Unexplained injuiries.
  • Unexplained changes in financial situation.
  • Conflicts between elder and caregiver.
  • Lack of basic care (like a clean environment and cleanliness).

Security in your home

Most people feel safe in their home. Yet, many Canadians fail to take even fundamental precautions to secure their homes against robbery.

There are some precautions you can take that will reduce the opportunities that a burglar is looking for.

Prevention tips

  • Conduct a security check of your home to determine possible entry points and any weaknesses they may have.
  • Keep all entrances and garages well-lit at night.
  • don't leave tell-tale signs that you are away, such as leaving your curtains undrawn at night, an absence of a car in the driveway, dark house (lights off) and telling your friends and family on social media about an upcoming holiday.
  • Install good locks and always use them.
  • Install a wide-angle viewer in your front door which allows you to see visitors before you open the door.
  • Never open a door to strangers without credentials.
  • Change your routine often. Burglars often watch activities in a neighbourhood.
  • Don't keep large amounts of money in your home.
  • Mark valuable items for identification. The operation identification program has been developed by police to assist people in marking their property.
  • Keep valuables in a safety deposit box at your bank. If this isn't possible, keep them locked up in a reasonable hiding place in your home.

Tip: A few inexpensive but rich-looking pieces kept in the jewelry box as a decoy may deter criminals from further damaging your home in search of valuables.

Away from home

It is important to take extra care in securing your home when you are going to be away for any extended time. Not only should your home be secure but it should also appear lived in.

Prevention tips

  • Lock all windows, doors and garages before you leave.
  • Leave a radio playing to show that someone is home.
  • Leave one or two lights on, if possible operated by timers that turn on according to how dark it is.
  • Stop mail and newspaper deliveries.
  • Arrange to have someone pick up any newspapers, mail or flyers left on your doorstep.
  • Leave a key with someone you trust.
  • Let a trusted neighbour know you're going to be away, for how long and where they can contact you if necessary.
  • Arrange to have someone cut the grass or shovel the snow if you plan to be away for several days.

Safety on the streets

If street crimes (purse snatching, robberies, assaults, etc.) are a problem in your neighbourhood and you have a fear of being a victim, there are ways in which you can reduce the risk of abuse and increase your sense of security.

Prevention tips

  • Walk only in well-lit areas.
  • don't burden yourself with packages and a bulky purse.
  • Never display large sums of money in public.
  • Go shopping in pairs or in a group.
  • Walk in the centre of the sidewalk, away from alleys and doorways.
  • If you suspect you are being followed, cross the street, go to the nearest home, service station or business and call the police.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid areas that increase your chances of being assaulted.
  • Report problem areas to police. The police welcome the information and can also advise you of prevention methods.

Safety in your vehicle

Prevention tips

  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times, whether moving or parked.
  • If you are driving at night, use well-lit streets and parking lots that are open for easy observation.
  • Be cautious of any stranger approaching your vehicle. If you feel you are in danger, press the horn repeatedly in short blasts; this will attract attention.
  • If you think you are being followed, pull in to the nearest gas station or safe place. Don't drive home.
  • Plan and know your route before you leave, whether it is for a short drive in the city or a long trip in the country. Consider using a Global Positioning System (GPS) if you travel frequently to help avoid getting lost.
  • Don't pick up hitchhikers.
  • View the interior of your car before getting in to make sure no one is hiding inside, even if the doors are locked.
  • Have keys in hand so you don't have to linger before entering your car.

What if . . . Your vehicle breaks down?

  • Pull your vehicle off the road so you will be out of the traffic;
  • Turn on the emergency (four-way) flasher;
  • When it is safe to step out of your vehicle, raise the hood;
  • Stay in your vehicle with all doors locked and windows rolled up;
  • If possible, call family or emergency road assistance and wait for help to come to you;
  • Should a passing motorist stop, stay in your car and ask him/her to send help back to you.

Fraud and scams

In the world of fraud prevention and investigation, the two most used phrases are "buyer beware" and "you don't get something for nothing". Remember those phrases and repeat them to yourself whenever you receive any solicitation, particularly when it is by telephone. Don't send any amount of money to someone you have never met until you actually receive what you have been promised. Also keep in mind when an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.

If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, call and report the incident to your local police.

As a consumer, you must recognize both the risk and responsibility involved with each transaction you make. Whether you are dealing with a door-to-door salesperson, telephone solicitor, through the mail or online activities, you are taking a risk.

It is your responsibility to be alert, to be familiar with common frauds and scams, and to be well informed on tips that may prevent you from becoming a victim of fraud.

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  • By

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police

  • Published

    Mar 01, 2023

  • Subject Area
    • Safety, Security, Finances, & Personal Planning
  • Audience
    • Service Providers (Non-profits, Community Organizations, Local government)
    • Government (Politicians, Policy Makers) and Health Authorities
    • Funders
    • Academics
    • Government
    • Caregivers, Seniors & Volunteers
    • Health Authorities
  • Category
    • Provincial Resources


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