Retirement Life
3 July 2024

Self-defence for seniors

As we age, many of us have to accept a slower pace and recognise that we might not be as physically robust as we once were. It’s also natural to feel more vulnerable when it comes to personal safety.


While it’s highly unlikely that any of us will encounter any real threats, even knowing you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve to deter would-be assailants can boost your confidence and give you a sense of comfort and empowerment.

Self-defence mindset

There’s no need to aim for a black belt in judo (although, by all means go for it, if that’s your thing!). Self-defence isn’t just about physical strength; it's about outsmarting potential threats and knowing when to seek help. Mindset is the foundation of personal safety. That means being aware of your surroundings, trusting your instincts, and having the confidence to take action if necessary.

Prioritise prevention

The best way to keep safe is to not put yourself in a dodgy situation if you can avoid it. Body language and mannerisms also go a long way to making you appear less vulnerable.


Keep the following tips in mind next time you’re out and about:

  • Be alert to your surroundings: Make it a habit to scan the area around you and be mindful of potential threats so you can steer clear.
  • Strike a pose: Your posture can send a strong message about your confidence or otherwise. Stand straight, with your chin up and shoulders back for self-assured vibes. A hunched posture, with lowered eyes can make you seem insecure and timid.
  • Don’t dawdle: Walk as smoothly and confidently as possible and, if you can, try to maintain a similar pace to those around you.
  • Look people in the eye: Make brief, neutral eye contact with the people around you, which makes you less vulnerable to a potential assailant hoping to leverage the element of surprise.
  • Don’t get distracted by strangers: If someone asks you a question, keep them at a reasonable distance and in your line of sight (don’t stop and look down at your watch, for instance).
  • Don’t distract yourself: Avoid texting, talking on your phone, or looking at map while out walking…anything that shows you’re not paying attention to what’s around you. If you’re in an unfamiliar environment, plan your route before you head out. And step into a shop or café if you need to look something up or ask for directions.
  • Guided by the light: Stick to well-lit, populated areas, especially at night. Consider adding a mini flashlight and/or whistle to your key ring and hold your keys so one is sticking out between your fingers while you’re walking.
  • Don’t be obvious: Avoid wearing clearly expensive jewellery and keep valuables out of sight. If you carry a purse or handbag, don’t let it dangle behind you or away from your body, conceal it under a jacket or coat if you can. Consider downsizing your wallet so you can put it in your front pocket or the inside of a jacket, rather than your back pocket.


Calculate what you could draw in retirement.

In the unlikely event…

If you do find yourself in a threatening situation, self-preservation is paramount. If someone demands your money or personal property, particularly if they have a weapon, give it to them. If you can, throw your valuables in their direction rather than handing them over at close range.


If you do need to defend yourself, be prepared to:


  • Make a racket: Blow that whistle you have on your key ring (or a personal alarm), or shout as loudly as you can, which can scare off anyone hoping for an easy target and also let those nearby know you need help.
  • Use what you have: Car keys, a cane, an umbrella, a hot drink, sticks, or throwing dirt or perfume in someone’s eyes…anything that can buy you time and make a would-be assailant think twice.
  • Exploit weaknesses: Even the biggest, strongest looking person has vulnerable spots. The eyes, nose, throat, groin and knees are particularly sensitive to pressure. Advice from a US-based senior living site suggests kicking the side of an assailant’s knee (or whacking it with a cane to throw them off balance and allow time to flee. Or kick or knee them in the groin. If you’re very close, jab your fingers, knuckles, or keys in their eyes, which might slow them down long enough for you to escape. If your arms are being held, stomp on their foot as hard as you can and try to free yourself to go for the eyes.

A class act

If you’re really keen, you could check out martial arts classes near you – they’re usually extremely receptive to newcomers and cater to all ages and abilities. Alternatively, check with your local council or gyms, who might run senior-focused self-defence classes. Not only will you learn how to defend yourself, but you’ll also improve your general fitness, co-ordination, flexibility, mental capacity and open up new opportunities for connection.

Make sure you talk to any potential instructor (and your health professional, if necessary) first about your abilities and any physical limitations. You don’t want to go too hard, too early and injure yourself!


Preparation is key

Remember, empowerment comes from preparation. Stay safe, stay strong, and remember—you have the power to protect yourself!


Project your retirement income.

Photo of Vanessa Glennie
Written by:

Vanessa Glennie

Vanessa is Head of Communications at Lifetime Retirement Income. She’s an experienced investment writer, having spent more than a decade writing about financial markets in the global fund management industry.

Invest with Lifetime for a retirement income managed for living.

Enjoy more retirement news with Lifetime