Self-Defense for Senior Citizens

The elderly population is far more likely to become a victim or target of a crime or home intrusion. To protect life and property, many choose to keep a firearm in the home in the event of an emergency or break-in. Unfortunately, as we age some of our basic functions — our reflexes, cognition, and the ability to respond quickly to an emergency, begin to slow down, impeding our reaction time, accuracy, and ability to use a firearm in self-defense.

There’s no shame in the aging process, as it is a natural part of life that we all go through at one point or another, but aging does pose a significant number of safety issues. So is it an asset or a liability to keep a firearm in the house as a senior citizen? How can one ensure a safe living environment, or practice for an emergency should they choose to own a firearm for protection?

When push comes to shove, owning a firearm is a very personal decision that should be made with a heightened sense of self-awareness, as only you know your area of ability and your limitations. Whatever you choose, you should know the self defense options available to you as a senior citizen, and their pros and cons.

Self-Defense Options

When it comes to home and self protection as a senior citizens, there are a variety of factors to consider as your BEST option for defense. You may not be as spry as you used to be and be able to grab your Louisville Slugger by the bed to face the threat head-on, but there are still a variety of options available to you to both prevent a home invasion, and stop one in its tracks.

Security Systems

A home security system that alerts law enforcement of an intrusion is an excellent investment to make as a senior citizen. Not only will this potentially scare away the perpetrator, but it will also give you ample time to grab your chosen defense method to protect you, your loved ones, and your property.

We’ve all seen the Life Alert commercials. Click a button on a necklace and an agent asks if you need help, right? If you were in an emergency or someone was threatening your life or home, a life alert device save precious seconds in seeking immediate help.

Another type of “security system” would be a guard dog. This is a popular choice among many, but for senior citizens a big dog can actually pose a larger safety concern. Think about it — how many older citizens do you see walking a Great Dane or German Shepherd? Not many. The problem with having a bigger dog, even if it is for security purposes, is that dog is far more likely to pull YOU over and subject you to injury.

Tip: Use a “Beware of Dog” sign, even if you do not have a dog or a large dog to ward off intruders.


Your self defense tool of choice could very well be a firearm, and that is an excellent option if it is within your area of ability to operate that firearm safely and responsibly. As most of us know, not all firearms are created equal, and each have their pros and cons.

Ok, so what type of firearm would be best for seniors?

There are a variety of factors to consider: weight, grip, semi-automatic, rifle, revolver, gun storage, and everything in between. While shotguns and rifles are realistically a great option for home defense for the majority of the population, as larger firearms are easier to aim and maneuver than smaller pistols, that may not be the best option for seniors due to the weight and grip of the firearm.

Odds are if you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you understand the frustration of losing the strength you once had in your hands, arms, fingers and wrists.

Even some smaller firearms may pose a similar challenge to that of rifles. Racking a slide of some semi-automatic pistols or pulling the trigger of a revolver may be challenging or even impossible for some seniors with weaker extremities.

Here’s what we recommend if you’re looking for a lightweight firearm with an easy slide.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ line. What does the EZ stand for? Well, it’s easy! This firearm is great for beginners and seniors as the slide can easily be racked with even just two fingers, making this an excellent choice for home protection when seconds mean life.

Keep in mind, gun storage is a key component in responsible gun ownership, so please be sure that you keep any unauthorized user away from your firearms and that your firearms are stowed in their proper places.

Pepper Spray

Okay, so let’s say you’re not comfortable with a firearm, cannot operate a firearm, or you are simply looking for a less lethal option for self defense. Pepper Spray may be your new best friend. Not only is pepper spray highly effective (assuming it has the appropriate level of capsaicinoids to stop the threat), it prevents you from having to deal with major legal battles in the aftermath. The key here is to have a pepper spray with a high enough heat index to bring the perpetrator to their knees so that you can get away.

Pepper spray is also great for situations outside of the home where you may not want to bring a firearm. Just like firearms, not all pepper sprays are created equal, so be sure you are using the right size, the right heat content, and the right delivery pattern for your abilities.

Pepper spray use for senior citizens


A less common method for self-defense is a knife. While these may not be as favoured as a firearm or pepper spray, they certainly serve a purpose and could always be a backup to stow in your nightstand in the event of an emergency. On the other hand, there are significant risk factors associated with a knife, so we would not recommend this as a first-choice. For a knife to be effective, you have to be in arms-reach of the threat, and be able to use that knife with enough force to stop the threat. Our goal is that you can keep the threat at a distance, to keep you and others safe.

Additional Measures to Consider

Older gun-owning adults are more prone to forgetfulness and often forget to unload their guns or store them properly. 21% of older adults in the study did not lock their guns and kept them loaded at all times. Of these adults, 9% of the also had children in the home. For those of you with grandchildren, please be sure to keep firearms, pepper spray or other self-defense tools out of reach of children.

Practice, practice, practice. Whether you use a firearm, pepper spray, a knife, or anything in between; be sure to practice to keep those skills finely tuned for if/when you need to use them. This could include going to the range bi-weekly to shoot a few targets, practicing pepper sprays with an inert unit, or practicing drawing a knife from concealment — either way, practice makes permanent.

Key Takeaways for Senior Citizens

For senior citizens who are healthy, mentally stable gun owners, the key takeaway is to be mindful and self aware when it comes to one’s area of ability — so be realistic with which self-defense tool is BEST FIT for your abilities and comfort level.

To learn more about firearm safety for all ages, enter your ZIP code here and find a Concealed Coalition class in your area today!

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