Seniors Learn to Protect Selves, Wallets

“Back off! Back off!”

Two dozen seniors followed the lead of 72-year-old third-degree black belt karate instructor Mary Davis and put their hands up – palms out – and shouted in unison.

“You want to surprise your attackers and startle them by making noise,” said Davis. “They are going to tell you to be quiet and not make a noise, so yelling might catch them off guard.”

That was just one of the many safety tips dispensed by Davis at Senior Expo: Protect Yourself and Your Wallet, put on by the San Diego County Health and Human Services’ Aging & Independence Services and District Attorney’s Office.

Davis started doing karate at age 57 when her daughter and granddaughter took up the martial art. Now, both Davis and her two daughters are black belts, and she’s been at it for 15 years. Besides teaching 4- and 5-year-olds and developmentally disabled individuals, Davis makes presentations to seniors.

“As a senior, it’s easy for seniors to relate to me,” said Davis. “People think ‘Oh, they’re a senior – they’re an easy target.’”

Davis hopes her presentations change that. “I want them to go out of here and not feel like they are going to be a victim,” she said.

You can feel a sense of empowerment in the room as the older adults listen attentively to Davis. She explains that the main point of martial arts is self-defense and the first thing people need to learn is the four A’s: Aware, Assess, Act and Attitude.

“You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times and then assess the situation,” Davis said. “Then, if you’re going to act, you need to do it 100 percent and have a confident attitude. Even if you are in a strange place and lost, don’t look lost.”

Davis teaches the seniors some basic self-defense moves. You always put your hands up palms out, she said, so no one mistakes your action for something aggressive instead of your self-defense intentions.  She covers purse snatching defenses (or protecting your wallet for the men in attendance), safe walking tips, carjacking prevention and home safety advice during the one-hour prevention course.

After Davis is done, seniors hear from the District Attorney’s Office and AIS’ Adult Protective Services on financial abuse prevention.

The Senior Expos are offered several times during the year. The next seminar is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 4 at the Mission Valley Public Library, 2123 Fenton Parkway, San Diego. To RSVP, please call 800-510-2020, press “4” twice and leave your name, phone number and the location of the expo you wish to attend.