5 Self-Defense Tactics for Senior Citizens


5 Self-Defense Tactics for Senior Citizens

I get dozens of emails a month from senior citizens, Sheepdog Society members included, who are concerned with their perceived inability to defend themselves during a violent encounter. Many of them have specific scenario concerns and others are very general to include topics related to; range of mobility, speed, strength and dealing with certain medical conditions. While these are all great areas for discussion and there are certainly precautions and strategies to employ it doesn’t take away from the fact that senior citizens are often attacked because of their attackers cowardly perception that seniors cannot defend themselves. That is simply not true!

As a senior citizen you need to be prepared with self-defense strategies, tactics and techniques before an attack happens and they need to be practiced often. Imagine your attackers surprise when you effectively fight back and prevent or stop entirely their attack! Obviously, the ideal situation is that you will not be walking alone or find yourself in a potentially dangerous situations, unfortunately in life there will be times when it does occur.

Here are my 5 Self-Defense Tactics for Senior Citizens: (In no particular order)

Before I list them out I want to remind you of this:
Anything you have in your hand can instantly become a weapon! Your car keys, your purse even your groceries. Don’t overlook the obvious. Your attacker has singled you out because he believes you are an easy mark. He believes you will comply with his demands thus not only giving him the physical things he desires of yours but satisfying a sick and twisted moment of power over you. If you find yourself dealing with an attacker…be loud! Make your screams loud and terrifying. This will shock your attacker and alert well-meaning citizens to investigate.

I guess you knew this would be on the list, right? Of course, a gun instantly equals the playing field regardless of your physical limitations. The key here is to have it readily available. You have heard me preach on this enough so I won’t waist your time convincing you that it is a must.

While most of us grew up having pocket knifes we tend to see them as a utility device rather than a self-defense weapon of choice. My grandfather used his “Old Timer” pocketknife to open the mail with it. (I have his knife now and plan to give it to my son when he is mature enough for it) Today, as part of my “Everyday Carry”, I carry a pocketknife specifically designed to fight with. While I may never use it in this capacity I have it. I have made a distinct decision to carry this type of knife for this purpose. Seniors can carry a pocketknife and the vast majority of the Americans you would encounter would never give it a second thought. If you have to use a pocketknife for self-defense be sure to hold it with a firm grip and go for the outside of the rib cage or inner thighs.

Pepper Spray:
Pepper spray, or oleoresin capsicum, is a very potent deterrent to any attack when used in the correct way. It comes in all sizes but the small, hand held canisters can be easily taken along wherever you go in your pocket or handbag. One spray to the face of an assailant and that bad guy will be searching desperately for his next clean breath of oxygen instead of intimidating you. Along with difficulty breathing they will have significant burning of the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. The effects can last for up to 45 minutes giving you time to get out of there. Some pepper spray formulas even contain UV dyes, so if the attacker attempts to wash it off, police will still be able to detect the presence of the pepper spray in the event that the person is apprehended. I will caution you that you can be affected by pepper spray as well so be careful to aim it correctly and mindful of your own distance to him when you deploy it.

Stun Gun:
While not appropriate in everyone’s day-to-day routine a stun gun can be a useful item to carry as part of your “Everyday Carry”. Stun guns are non-lethal weapons that produce a high voltage shock when activated. Today’s models come in small, hand held versions and often resemble cell phones, cameras, lipstick holders, rings or other everyday items. This means it can be carried in plain sight, or in a very easy to reach location, and used to temporarily disable any attacker, allowing you to make a getaway. There are two different versions of how the electric shock is delivered. One is that the device emits a high voltage electrical shock via two probes and in order for the attacker to be shocked by it the device has to be physically pressed to his skin meaning you are literally standing next to him. The other is a device that shoots a barb-like connected to a live wire over a distance of 2-3 feet. When that barb-like probe hits your attacker it sticks to him much like getting a fishing hook stuck in your finger. This type of device allows you a “stand-off” range of roughly 2-3 feet. This device may or may not be legal for you to own or employ in your state so check your local ordnances to be sure before you attempt to make a purchase.

Any Immediate Solid Object:
Seniors who use a cane can indeed use them as a weapon, if necessary. If you use it swing that cane with all of your might, and it can definitely cause some pain and disorientation to your attacker. Make you swings for the senses; eyes, ears, nose and throat. Attacking the senses causes an involuntary reaction resulting in his hands covering the areas you just hit. His natural instinct is to protect those areas so that no more damage is inflicted to them thus taking his hands (and those attacked senses) out of commission for the time being. It might be just enough of a deterrent to allow you to escape or call for help. If nothing else, the element of surprise can work to your advantage. If you are carrying groceries and can of corn or green beans is a great object to slam into his nose! Oh…let the waterworks of blood and tears ensue! Your car keys can make a very effective weapon that could scratch or poke an assailant. The most effective places to aim for with your keys are the eyes, neck or groin.

While not listed I can tell you the best self-defense is being prepared. Young or old, it is beneficial to learn about self-defense and personal protection. Taking self-defense classes at the local community center, gym, martial arts center will be beneficial. I would encourage you to look up a local MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) gym in your area because many are now teaching seniors how to fight. They would be ecstatic if senior citizens came to them with a desire to learn how to defend themselves. There are inexpensive but effective self-defense products like pepper spray, stun guns that can help you keep yourself safer under any conditions.

Whatever you decide is right for you, practice with it like your life may depend on it!


  • Ron Voigt says:

    Don’t overlook the Taser for civilians. The C-2 has a range of up to 15 feet and can be had with a laser and light activated when the safety is taken off. I carried a Taser when I was in law-enforcement and bought the C-2 for my wife to carry along with her S&W 649 and pepper spray. I took the 5 second ride when I qualified to carry the Taser and with good probe contact your central nevous system is completely disrupted.

    • Bob says:

      Have read some less then stellar things about the C2 concerning the battery recently (as in once installed they don’t last, and aren’t rechargeable) might want to look into it, or be prepared to change the battery out on a regular basis.

  • I always carry: Kimber gas ejected pepper spray; 3 3/4″ blade pocket knife, self-defense pen and now that I have had knee surgery and have an excuse for carrying it, a 4-foot rattan Indian riot police baton. Rattan is almost shatter-proof. It looks like bamboo, but unlike bamboo it is solid, made up of thousands of strands running longitudinally along the length of the shaft. I figure if it works for the Indian riot police, it should certainly work for me. Oh, and by the way, just in case none of the above work, unless there is some kind of screening I also carry a S&W 640 with hollow points, you know, just in case none of the above seem adequate. Inasmuch as I live in an ultra liberal state where such carry is strictly proscribed except for the privileged few, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention the latter b.g. repellant.

  • Kevin Murphy says:

    Finally E.J. a Insight to Elderly defense. Thanks

  • jag57 says:

    This definitely isn’t the country I grew up in, in the fifties; back then I felt safe anywhere, but now there is crime even in rural areas, which means we need to be armed and prepared, 24/7.

  • Mike Charles says:

    Thank You, E.J., I am a senior, with some big disabilities, and I appreciate your columns very much. I worked in law enforcement, way back, about 25+ years ago.

  • Mike Charles says:

    Thank You, E.J., I am a senior, with some big disabilities, and I appreciate your columns very much. I worked in law enforcement, way back, about 25+ years ago. I can remember a lot of the training I had, but, there is a lot of new stuff that I learn, from being online. I learn new things almost everyday, and a lot of those things, come from you. I know that I can’t do what I used to do, and I really appreciate this session, for seniors! Thank You, again, Sincerely, James M. Charles

  • Russell says:

    Where can I find a C2 Tazer for my wife have not seen them in my local gun shop

    • Bob says:

      They can be found on-line at various different vendors, but do your research first, have read that people are having issue with the battery not lasting (non-rechargeable) and replacement cost for them are $50

  • Ray says:

    Would a monkey fist be of any u as a elf defense tool ?

    • Bob says:

      Yes, but realize that they (like a lot of items) are extreme close range (contact) distance defensive tools, a good solid cane might be of better use as it can keep an aggressor at over arms distance.

  • John Lewis says:

    Excellent article!!!

  • Hi E.J. – Great post for us silver foxes (sorry, Sheep Dogs) out here, the grey warriors. Good advice for EDC; and it should be seriously considered and implemented by EVERYONE, not just all of us youth challenged kids out here. I for one load up my EDC package each and every morning. Truth be known, I prefer waking up on the GREEN SIDE OF THE GRASS; and I plan to continue to do so.

    However, as you have addressed many times in the past on LC, there are TWO additional practices/strategies that Seniors should be particularly mindful of: 1) – Situational Awareness 24/7 and 2) – Avoidance/Smart Choices especially when you are out-and-about. If they both are ingrained in your very being; you can mostly avoid the need to proceed to your five defensive tactics.

    Remain vigilant, ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings, keep your head up and your eyes and ears alert, as they are your personal radar for threat detection. LOOK PEOPLE IN THEIR EYES. LET THEM KNOW, THAT YOU KNOW, THEY ARE THERE. As we put on more years, we naturally move slower and react slower; and consequently we REQUIRE MORE LEAD TIME OR ADVANCED WARNING OF ANY APPROACHING THREAT, IN ORDER TO IMPLEMENT OUR PLANNED DEFENSES.

    If you concur, I would like to have you address these additional precautions in a blog post, again with a targeted readership of Seniors. There a lot of us out here; and our numbers are growing – as are the predators and thugs.

    Thanks, Jim

  • Richard Sitz says:

    Hear are a few more that may work for some people: Cane; Kubaton key chain; ink pen; roll of quarters; steel toe boots; tightly rolled up magazine; and a belt with a metal buckle.

  • Peter says:

    Thanks for the good advice for those of us with a few years under our belts. Where I live a personal firearm is out of the question. So while it’s been many decades since I practiced marital arts, I always include pepper spray, an assisted open pocket knife and my tactical pen as EDC. Well, almost always; banks won’t even allow you to wear a hat, and don’t get me started about airports. The tactical pen is the only defense tool that consistently makes the trip. How about some info on how best to defend yourself using this humble but loyal tool?

  • lare says:

    In a recent TV show, Fargo, a woman blasted a guy with bug spray. In my car, I carry a can of hornet killer, which shoots out 20 feet, and I plan on it discouraging anyone who intends harm from getting too close. A shot in the face will stop anyone.

  • Pastor A. says:

    Thanks for this one, EJ. So many seniors think that the world is just like it was 40 years ago and are so easily caught unaware of the social violence that comes for no logical reason at all. They need to be prepared. Forewarned really is forearmed. I have shared this one on Facebook. Thanks again and keep up the good work. I have recommended your site to many of my friends as the most informative and helpful.

  • Edward says:

    You gave some solid great advice for all of these scenarios except ONE: That of the pepper spray!!! I saw a TV cam of a police officer getting SEVEN .45 shots in the back AFTER pepper spraying, with Police Grade pepper spray, which is a lot hotter than can be bought for civilians, after he was able to top a car that had been fleeing. He ran up to the driver’s open window, got out of his can of pepper spray, and sprayed a good part of the can in the guy’s face and turned around to go back to his car as if he was on a Sunday stroll. The driver stuck out his gun IMMEDIATELY, and shot the officer dead and then proceeded to run over the body just for good measure. Another passing driver had seen what had happened, used the police radio to report it, took the dead officer’s gun, ran down the killer, and then shot the killer dead, and returned to the dead officer’s crime scene to turn himself in to the police that showed up. Bottom line, pepper spray works for MOST people, it apparently won’t work for someone who is intent on killing you. However, the BEST use of the spray if you insist on using it, would be to temporarily blind the assailant with it, and then INJURE the perp before you leave, and only THAT injury will ensure you can safely get away. Anything less just might get you killed. Take it from a DEAD police officer who relied ONLY on his pepper spray!!!

  • The dragon cane from Cold Steel, which I use, is intended to be a defensive weapon. Swung at a knee correctly, it will shatter the knee.

    But I also believe in firearms, and the gun you have with you is always better than the one left at home. I recommend North American Arms Black Widow with a laser sight and a .22lr extra cylinder. My Black Widow hits to the same point of aim at three yards with both .22lr and .22 magnums, and the new Hornaday .22 magnum takes that caliber to a whole new level. No, it is not as good as a .45 (which I also carry when I can), but it beats the heck out of a spitball.

  • I wanted to thank you for this wonderful read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it.

    I’ve got you book-marked to look at new things you post…

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