By SARA ARTHURS
Self-defense is as much about mental preparedness as physical prowess, and it’s important for seniors to learn, said Nancy Proctor, who will teach a senior self-defense class at Birchaven on May 15.
Proctor is a fourth-degree black belt in karate and has been a self-defense consultant for 25 years. She is also a registered nurse at Blanchard Valley Hospital.
Proctor encourages people to be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to safety. She likened self-defense to brushing one’s teeth or wearing a seat belt and said everyone needs a plan for self-defense, even in Findlay, where it’s easy to assume a “false sense of safety,” she said.
Anyone can benefit from learning self-defense but “senior citizens are inherently vulnerable,” she said. However, they are also capable of keeping themselves safe. Those that are not should be careful and not travel alone.
Learning to be defensive means paying attention and thinking ahead, coming up with a plan to deal physically and mentally with, for example, the situation of being followed by someone on the street.
“I always tell people to play the ‘What if’ game,” Proctor said.
Proctor said seniors should work at presenting “a demeanor of confidence.” A big part of self-defense is awareness. Her class is designed to help people determine their vulnerability and “heighten your awareness of your environment.”
Proctor previously taught a senior self-defense class at the Findlay Family YMCA. She covered common techniques attackers use to catch people off guard.
She talked about carjacking and mugging and the importance of having “presence of mind.” Someone who is attacked should pay attention so they can report what their assailant looked like, or their license plate number, she said.
She also teaches choke holds and wrist grabs. She said some seniors have a lack of mobility but that doesn’t mean there are no options. Even a cane can be used as a weapon.
Seniors who have dementia are particularly at risk, especially if they get out alone. Proctor had experienced this in her own family when her father was found by the police roaming the streets at 2 a.m. Her mother didn’t know he had gotten outside.
Proctor has been practicing karate since 1983 and said it has led to a sense of “inner confidence” and changed the way she carries herself.
“I never take my safety for granted,” she said.
She first became interested in martial arts when her young son, having been diagnosed with cancer, couldn’t participate in most sports but was looking for something to become involved in. Both mother and son started training in karate. Proctor previously lived in New York state where she taught police rookies unarmed self-defense.
When she taught self-defense at the YMCA, she knew that the people taking the class were already very active since they were all YMCA members.
She said a desire for safety may provide seniors who are not active an impetus to add physical activity to their lifestyle. But for seniors who use a wheelchair or walker or cane, it’s important to be aware. Statistically someone is 80 percent less likely to be attacked if they are out with one other person, she said.
Today’s seniors are “the silent generation” and were “taught to be kind and courteous and civil,” Proctor said. Later generations are less trusting and “much more leery of people” but seniors may be more trusting which can put them at risk, she said.
Proctor encourages seniors to come up with a self-defense plan and talk about it with their families.
A woman living alone could make herself less likely to be a target by having a man’s voice, and a dog barking, on her outgoing answering machine message, Proctor said. She said this may make a burglar more likely to pick another target. Proctor noted that seniors are more likely than younger people to still have a land line and an answering machine.
Children of seniors, and other caregivers, also play a role in keeping seniors safe.
Proctor encourages caregivers to make sure elderly people do not give out personal information on the phone, or leave doors unlocked. Caregivers should assess the home to ensure it’s as safe as it can be.
Proctor said most often crime victims are attacked by someone they know, not a stranger hiding in the bushes, so it’s important to be aware of things like elder abuse.
“There’s no profile of an attacker,” she said.
Some people’s opinion of self-defense is to “equate it with paranoia,” Proctor said.
She tells people she is not trying to make them paranoid but “to give you some knowledge that will give you power.”
Proctor’s hope for the class is that participants will be “thinking a lot more about their safety,” and not take it for granted.
Proctor also teaches self-defense at the college level. She recently taught a group of Findlay High School female students who are preparing for college. In that class she talked about “perceived safety.” For example, Proctor said, someone on vacation may assume that while they are in a hotel no one is likely to hurt them.
When Proctor taught the high school students, they had questions about campus safety and getting to know their environment. Proctor taught the group physical maneuvers and talked about the importance of screaming if they are attacked.
“We get scared silent so many times,” she said.
She encourages people to scream “fire!” rather than “help!” or “rape!” as it’s most likely to get people to come out.
For seniors, too, “Your voice is your best weapon,” she said.
Birchaven Village will offer its senior self-defense class at 6 p.m. May 15 in the Aldrich Dining Room. The event is open to the community.
There is no charge to attend but registration is required by Tuesday by contacting Khrista Beckmann at 419-348-6978 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 email@example.com
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