The week of November 6 to 12, 2015 is National Seniors Safety Week. During this week, there are several initiatives aimed at keeping seniors safe and healthy in their own homes. The special week is aimed at developing a public awareness of the needs of seniors in their community. It also has as a goal providing health and safety information to seniors. It is hoped that this information will help seniors avoid injuries. Finally National Seniors Safety Week pays tribute to those professionals and family members who act as caregivers and support workers for seniors in the community.

Seniors’ awareness initiatives include:

Maintaining a Dementia-Safe Environment

For people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, being in a familiar environment helps that person connect with the past and maintain a sense of what is going on in the present. Familiar surroundings provide comfort and reassurance. This initiative during National Seniors Safety Week is the result of collaboration between the Canada Safety Council and the Alzheimer Society of Canada. One of their services toward a safe environment for dementia-affected seniors is to provide families and caregivers with a list of home safety tips for make their homes safe and dementia-friendly.These tips include:

  • Test fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year and replace batteries
  • Use appliances with an automatic shut-off feature
  • Keep small appliances away from sinks and faucets
  • Childproof doors and cupboards that contain dangerous drugs and chemicals
  • Store dangerous objects like grills, knives, lawnmowers, power tools, and guns in locked cabinets or sheds
  • Remove locks from bathroom and bedroom doors
  • Install safety locks high on all exit doors
  • Remove toxic plants or decorative fruit/vegetable arrangements that could be mistakenly eaten
  • Remove medications from drawers, cupboards and counters and store in locked medicine cabinets
  • Check temperature of bathwater, shower and food/drink to make sure it is safe
  • Install grab bars, non-skid mats and raised toilet seats in bathrooms to prevent falls
  • Paint steps contrasting colors to avoid missteps
  • Keep emergency numbers by the phone

Take Five to Prevent Falls

Falls are the number one cause of injuries in senior populations. This initiative of National Seniors Safety Week aims to make seniors and their caregivers aware of potential danger areas. Here are some ways to prevent falls:

  • Check your home for potential tripping obstacles like mats and throw rugs
  • Add calcium to your diet to strengthen bones. Osteoporosis of Canada suggests adding a glass of milk each day
  • After age sixty-five Doctors of Optometry of Canada suggest annual eye examinations
  • Exercise to stay strong, keep muscles toned and maintain balance

Fight Fraud and Protect Your Finances

The RCMP estimates fraudulent scams cost Canadians ten billion dollars a year. Seniors are frequent targets. They often have excellent credit ratings. They are too trusting and generous. They don’t always understand, particularly when newer technology is used, so they are more vulnerable online. They may have memory issues and are often ashamed or embarrassed when scammed. The Canada Safety Council has these tips for seniors:

  • Lock up personal information
  • Never divulge bank account numbers, credit card numbers, PINs or other financial information over the phone, online, or to someone coming to your door
  • Shield the keypad when inputting PIN
  • Shop online only from reputable dealers and businesses
  • Do not use Wi-Fi at coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, or other unsecured locations to do online banking or online shopping
  • Review credit card and debit statements at least once a month
  • Shred any mail with your name, address or other identification information before putting it in garbage or recycling bin
  • Donate only to charities you know and can trust. If a deal sounds unbelievable, it probably is. DO NOT fall for it!
  • Leave extra credit cards and other identification locked up at home when you are shopping in case of loss or pick pocketing
  • Keep records of your credit card numbers and emergency numbers locked up. In cases where cards are lost or stolen, inform the company or banking institution at once
  • Check your credit rating at least once a year using free checking facilities like Equifax or TransUnion

Safe Driving Tips for Mature Drivers

Maintaining a driver’s license is important to seniors’ sense of independence. The aging process, however, can affect the older driver's safe driving. Seniors often experience such aging signs as: diminished vision, night blindness and poorer depth perception, movement-limiting disabilities and slower responses and reflexes.

The Canada Safety Council reminds senior drivers that health issues and medications can affect their ability to drive safely. Seniors should also consider the best times of the day to drive because of traffic, visibility and their own ability. They also suggest seniors consider less congested routes, times and distances for driving.

The Canada Safety Council sponsors a “55 Alive” driver refresher course. This course helps mature drivers keep their driving skills sharp and current. The course gives them tools and strategies for driving safely. “55 Alive” teaches practical defensive driving techniques that can help mitigate age-related driver challenges.

Preventing Elder Abuse

Each year, elderly people are abused in their own homes, in the homes of family, or in seniors’ facilities. Between four and ten per cent of seniors in North America are victims of some form of elder abuse. Twenty percent of us know a senior who is experiencing some form of abuse.

Elder abuse can take the form of physical abuse, psychological abuse, neglect or financial abuse. During National Seniors Safety Week, The Canada Safety Council and other seniors’ organizations draw awareness of the potential for elder abuse and urge family members, caregivers, neighbours and community members to watch for signs of elder abuse and urge them to seek legal assistance for seniors they believe to be in abusive situations. They can help by visiting seniors regularly and looking for medication or financial discrepancies and changes in behavior.