Looking out for the elderly

2018-04-24 06:00

CRIMINALS often prey on older members of society because they are seen as vulnerable or soft targets. Ivan Govender, district manager (KwaZulu-Natal) for Fidelity ADT, says that for this reason their safety must be highlighted and addressed all year round.

“Safety begins in the home, regardless of whether you live by yourself, with your partner or in a retirement village.

Ensure that the locks you have fitted on windows and doors are of a good quality and will not break easily.

Also, keep a list of important contact numbers in a specific location or store them in such a way that they can be accessed easily on your smartphone.

This will ensure that no time is wasted in the event of an emergency.

“If there’s someone at your door or gate, call out to the person and ask them to identify themself.

If it is a service or delivery person, do not simply open the door, but insist on seeing their identification. Also contact their employer to confirm their identification if necessary.”

Elderly people living in a retirement village need to ensure they do not become complacent. The perception is often that very high walls and access-controlled entrances to complexes deter criminals, but this is not always the case.

Even in a secured complex, there is always a risk of burglaries and theft from inside and outside the complex, and residents should remain vigilant and responsible for their personal security. “This is particularly true of complexes that are not fully let or where construction workers are still present,” said Govender.

He adds that safety must also be a priority when out and about.

“When 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.

Inviting someone along is always a good idea, as is avoiding walking in quiet, isolated areas.

“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 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 cellphone, unattended or in the trolley. Many retirement villages have scheduled shopping days for residents and take a mini-bus to a centre. Unfortunately, criminals look out for vulnerable targets and sometimes target older people on these excursions.”

It is an unfortunate reality that the elderly are also often victims of con artists.

Govender says if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. “Be suspicious of anyone who tries to rush you into signing any kind of contractual agreement.

Tell them that you want some time to read through the paperwork. Go through it very carefully or ask for the assistance of a trusted family member, friend or advisor. Never give your personal details freely — including your credit card, identity or banking information — to anyone who randomly calls and asks for them.

“If you want reassurance, ask them for their details and verify those for yourself. Call them only once you are happy that the initial request was legitimate.”

Govender says that while senior citizens can arm themselves with these precautions, the younger generations do have a role to play.

“Visit or call elderly relatives or neighbours regularly, and offer to help them with chores or maintenance around the house.

They may not be as confident as they once were when it comes to tasks like climbing onto ladders to change light bulbs or carrying home the grocery shopping.

However, knowing that you are around to help may ease some of the related stress and anxiety, and possibly prevent them from becoming a victim of crime.”

- Supplied

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