Have you factored in the safety of your elderly this holiday season?

    Holiday plans are being made and excitement is in the air with only a few weeks left until the end-of-year break. But have you factored in who will be keeping an eye on your elderly parents or grandparents during the festive season?

    “Criminals often prey on older members of society because they are seen as vulnerable, soft targets,” says Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing and Communications Manager Fidelity ADT. “And while their safety should be a priority year-round, it is particularly important to ensure safety measures are in place when family, carers and friends are away for the holidays.”

    Security is just as important for those senior citizens living in retirement villages and complexes as those in stand-alone homes. “Break-ins are not isolated to stand-alone homes any longer,” she says. “A thorough security check of their homes and surrounding premises ahead of the holiday makes sense. If there are any vulnerable areas these need to be addressed. Don’t leave repairs or installations to the last minute when suppliers have already packed up shop for the holiday,” she adds.

    Besides checking the perimeter security such as walls and gates, and testing that the alarm system is working, it is important to check that the locks fitted on windows and doors are of a good quality. “If you need to get an expert opinion get a security person to come and do an evaluation.

    Panic buttons are a must. “Take the time to explain to your elderly friend or family member the importance of carrying the panic button on them at all times. Not only can they call for help if there is a security incident they can also raise the alarm if there is a medical emergency.”

    She adds that there should always be a list of important contact numbers near the telephone or emergency numbers on quick-dial on a cell phone so that no time is wasted in the event of an emergency. “You may also want to consider informing your security company that your elderly person is alone so they are aware and could do a drive-by or stop-in to check that all is ok.”

    “Please encourage the elderly not to open their doors for anyone unless they have verified who they are. It is an unfortunate reality that the elderly are often victims of con-artists. They need to be suspicious of anyone who comes to the door with a story. Encourage them to rather call someone to come and check before letting the person in. This also applies to people who may call on the phone wanting personal information, asking for money etc. They should never freely give their personal details – including credit card details, identity or banking information.”

    Hattingh offers the following additional safety tips for senior citizens:

    • If you plan to go out, even if it is just for a short walk, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
    • If you are going to the shops, never hold your handbag dangling at the straps; keep it tucked tightly under your arm. If you are only taking along your purse or wallet, either carry it in the front pocket of your trousers or in an inside jacket pocket. While shopping, never leave your handbag or anything of value, like a cell phone, unattended or in the trolley.

    “We need to be conscious of the fact that many elderly people do not go away for the holidays and will be at home alone. Let’s ensure their festive season is a crime-free one,” she concludes.