Security tips for seniors

Many seniors list “fear of crime” as one of their biggest concerns, even though statistics show that they are the least likely group to become victims of most types of crime.

However, when crime does happen, the consequences are often more severe for our older population. Many seniors live on a fixed income, so the loss of money or property is difficult to replace. As people get older, their bodies take longer to recover from injury, so an attack on a senior can have a more serious outcome than on someone younger.

There are steps that you can take to help prevent becoming a victim of crime.

Elder abuse

It can be difficult for most of us to imagine that anyone could abuse some of our most vulnerable citizens, but elder abuse is a growing problem in Canada.

While there are different types of mistreatment that seniors can experience, the Government of Canada defines elder abuse as:

“Any action by someone in a relationship of trust
that results in harm or distress to an older person.”

Elder abuse can be:

Financial– This abuse can include someone being forced to change their will, or having their property sold or given away without their consent, or with forced consent. It can also involve keeping money, such as a pension check, that belong to a senior. No one has the right to do these things to you, even if you have given someone power of attorney — they must act in your best interests not theirs.

Physical Abuse– Examples of physical abuse include assault and being restrained for long periods of time, either by someone locking you inside, tying you down, or over-medicating you so you cannot get out of bed.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse– No one should be subjected to insults, threats, intimidation, or yelling. However, this form of abuse can also include not allowing certain rights and privileges, like seeing your friends and family, or invading your privacy by interfering with your mail, phone calls, or money matters. Also included is the denial of a safe environment, food and personal care, hygiene, medical and legal services, or preventing opportunities for worship.

If you, or any senior that you know of, are the victim of any type of abuse, please call our non-emergency line at 604-717-3321. If your immediate safety is threatened, please call 9-1-1.

Common warning signs

One warning sign does not necessarily mean abuse, but here are some possible signs that there could be a problem:

  • the onset of unexplained physical injuries, like bruising, sprains or broken bones
  • a change in financial status
  • abandoning / leaving a dependent elder alone for long periods of time
  • a sudden change in the elders appearance
  • bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss are indicators of possible neglect
  • belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses or those who should be in a position of trust are signs of verbal or emotional abuse
  • frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person

Quick tips for other to help prevent elder abuse

  • become knowledgeable about the signs of elder abuse and neglect
  • call or visit an elderly loved one and ask how they are
  • help an elder obtain appropriate community resources
  • provide the caregiver with a break
  • contact your local public trustee to learn how you can support their work assisting at-risk elders
  • ask your community leaders to speak about elder abuse
  • volunteer at a nursing home or visit a homebound senior in your neighborhood

Personal safety tips

  • always be aware of your surroundings
  • know where you are at all times
  • walk with a friend or family member
  • carry limited valuables and money on your person
  • carry yourself with confidence
  • protect your personal space
  • be loud if you need help — don’t be afraid to shout or yell
  • ask for photo ID from any service/delivery person you aren’t familiar with
  • don’t hesitate to call police if you need assistance

Financial safety tips

  • protect your personal information
  • don’t send money to anyone if you aren’t certain of their identity
  • say no when someone pressures you for money – even family members
  • advise your bank of any authorized users of your account
  • choose a trusted family member or friend as a power of attorney
  • be aware of scams and con artists, familiarize yourself with their schemes
  • if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • never provide your credit card, social insurance, or banking information over the phone
  • don’t let anyone rush you into signing anything – read carefully and have someone you trust check it over
  • beware of people claiming to represent companies, consumer organizations, or government agencies that offer to recover lost money from fraudulent telemarketers for a fee
  • if you are suspicious about anyone, contact the police, Better Business Bureau, or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

Emotional safety tips

  • keep socially connected
  • don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help
  • establish healthy boundaries in your relationships

Home invasion

Home invasions are not common in Vancouver, but they can have serious consequences. If you are a victim of home invasion, try to cooperate as much as possible. Your possessions are not worth your health or your life.

Try to remember any distinguishing features of your assailants to share with police afterwards, and call 9-1-1 as soon as it is safe to do so.

There are certain precautions you can take to limit the chance of becoming a victim:

  • keep your doors locked at all times – if there is a knock at the door, verify the identity of the person through a peephole there before you open it
  • make sure your door is made of solid wood or metal – a door is only as strong as its frame, so install a metal frame or have the current frame reinforced
  • place a security film or Plexiglas on the inside of the window, as it increases the difficulty in breaking the glass
  • take your phone with you to the door when someone knock

Contact your local community policing centre for more information on how you can help prevent crime.

Learn more about home security.

General

  • do not have cheques mailed to you, as many criminals can figure out when monthly pension checks arrive and will attempt to intercept them; see your bank about having your cheques direct deposited

Purse snatching

Purse snatching is one of the few crimes were seniors are targeted more than other age groups. If you must carry a purse, here are some tips to help prevent becoming a victim or to limit injury if you are victimized.

  • walk with your head up high and with a sense of purpose – attackers are looking for someone they consider easy prey
  • carry keys and identification in your pocket, so that if your purse is stolen the thieves won’t have your address and access to your home
  • avoid carrying large amounts of money

Learn more about personal safety.

Fraud

While many seniors fear physical attacks, they are far more likely to become victims of con artists. They may try to scam you in person, in a phone call, or in an email. They may be extremely charming and very convincing.

Learn more about fraud prevention and how to report fraud.

Where to get help

Police Emergency 9-1-1

Police Non-Emergency
604-717-3321

BC Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support
(Seniors Abuse and Information Line – SAIL)
(604) 437-1940
1 (866) 437-1940

Vancouver Coastal Health
(604) 263-7377

Public Guardian and Trustee
(604) 660-4507

Victim Link BC
1-800-563-0808

Mosaic Victim Services Program 
604-254-9626

Qmunity
604-684-5307

Safety tips for seniors booklet