Protecting the Vulnerable (Part Three)

Once an elderly person completes their PSDA (Protection Self Defense Assessment), you can determine the best way to help them learn to protect themselves. Here’s the first step that I recommend.


Self defense at any age begins with being aware of your surroundings. It’s a combination of self-awareness and environmental-awareness – sometimes referred to as Situational or 360 Awareness. This is the mental aspect of protecting yourself from a physical attack.

The best way not to get hurt in an attack is not be there. If older people think defensively and train to survive, they won’t purposely put themselves in places where attacks are likely to happen. That’s smart and will probably keep them from being hurt most of the time. However, more and more attacks are happening in places we cannot avoid, unless we want to cower behind locked doors and never venture outside to live our lives. That is no way to live. So, instead of cowering behind locked doors, we open our doors and go outside and live our lives – having trained in the 3 A’s of Attack Awareness:

“Be Aware that an Attack can happen Anywhere, at Anytime, by Anyone.”

I’m in my mid-70s, but I don’t walk around afraid of people. I like people and enjoy being around them. Most older people I know also like to be around friends, family, and even strangers they meet along the way. However, I am aware that I could be attacked anywhere: inside my house, in my yard, in my driveway, on the street in front of my house, down the block, at the store, at church, anywhere. So, what do I do? I stay mentally aware.

Situational Awareness

It’s important that we be aware of our situation and surroundings every moment we are awake. An easy way to remember the idea of situational awareness is TLD. I call it the Three Awares –

  1. Time
  2. Location
  3. Distance

One way to help older people understand this is for them to ask themselves several questions before leaving the house. Keep in mind that we don’t want to frighten people during training. We want to help build their confidence at the same time they’re learning how to be safe. Knowledge is power.

  • What time of day is it when I leave?
  • Will it become night before I return home?
  • If so, what lights do I need to leave on inside and outside my house to make my return home safer?
  • Will I be with someone else or alone when I return home?
  • If I’m with someone, would they know how to help me if I’m attacked?
  • Where am I going?
  • Is it a long way from home?
  • Is the location safe at this time of day?
  • Will the location be safe if it becomes dark while I’m there?
  • Do I have any concerns about finding my way there or back if I’m alone?

You can also ask the elderly person you’re training if they have any other awareness concerns. They often do and it’s helpful for them to be confident that they get the opportunity to ask anything that’s on their mind. If you will be training this person(s) on a regular basis, remind them each time you see them that you welcome their questions and concerns. We’re there to help them.

Next Time

In the next part of our special series we’ll begin looking at some physical training we can share with older people to help them protect themselves against personal attacks.

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© Grace Martial Arts 1990 – 2023


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