Keeping safe this festive season


From the 25th of November to the 10th December, South Africa joins the United Nations’ Campaign for 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence and for 2023 the theme is UNITE … with a call to invest to prevent violence against women and girls.

The success of this campaign rests in our daily individual and collective actions to safeguard our ourselves and society against acts of crime, violence and abuse. Older persons are one of the most vulnerable and at risk groups with older women reportedly at a higher risk.

And, as we approach the holiday season, we are mindful that the elderly are softer targets for abuse and violent crimes.

With the ageing process, we generally have less physical strength and may not be able to move as quickly or protect ourselves from a physical attack. Elders may also not be up to speed with technology, making them vulnerable to not only physical and emotional crime but online scams, cyber bullying and con artists.

Be vigilant and follow these safety tips for elders.

Safety at home and in your neighbourhood

Join a neighbourhood chat group to keep track of criminal activity in your area and to call for help if necessary. Alert neighbours to suspicious individuals or vehicles via the group. Consider starting a ‘check-up’ group for family members and friends who live alone, and maintain regular contact with everyone. Be sure to let people know about your whereabouts and if you are going out for a walk – go along with company rather than alone. Walk on well-lit, occupied streets, and in a group when possible.

If you are expecting a delivery, make sure you know the name of the courier company that will be delivering your goods. Don’t allow unknown vehicles to enter your property and be sure to check the identity of anyone who may be posing as a municipal official or worker; if required call your local office to verify any unscheduled work.

Do not trust strangers or share your personal information. Criminals may often know information about you before they approach you.

Online Safety

Many criminals have moved into the cyber world, where they use sophisticated tactics to trick you into parting with personal information such as your address, bank account details, passwords and personal information.

Be especially vigilant when you receive a call supposedly from someone working at your bank or even cellphone provider. They often use scare tactics, like querying whether you authorised a substantial payment or debit order coming off your account. Don’t be frightened into divulging personal information in order to stop the ‘fraudulent’ transaction. Don’t respond to emails from ‘the post office’ or a courier company, demanding payment before your items can be delivered.

Instead take down their details and call your bank to verify or ask them to call you back in 10 minutes giving you enough time to call the bank yourself.

Travel safe

Don’t post travel plans on social media, where criminals may see them and take note that your home will be vacant. Never leave a spare key or gate remote control under the doormat or in your post box. Rather leave them with a trustworthy neighbour or family member.

Mall safety

Shopping for festive gifts and food can be fun. But when the stores are busy, it’s easy to get distracted and fall victim to crime. Keep zippers or clasps on handbags closed, and use a cross-body type bag rather than a shoulder bag which is easily snatched. Never put your handbag in your shopping trolley. Don’t keep a wallet or phone in the back pocket of your pants. Avoid talking on your phone or texting while shopping.

Apart from distracting you, phones are frequently stolen right out of people’s hands. If you take a refreshment break at a coffee shop in the mall, don’t leave your phone or handbag on the table. Tuck everything away out of sight.

Be vigilant when withdrawing cash from an ATM. Keep a sharp look out for people loitering nearby who may follow you and rob you. Never ask a stranger to help you deposit or withdraw money. If in doubt, go into the bank and ask a staff member for assistance.

Try keeping together your car keys, parking ticket and cash to pay for your ticket in a place that is easy for you to locate once done with your shopping. Have these items already in your hand when you reach the ticket payment station so that the trip back to your car is safe, easy and quick. When you are seen searching in your handbag for the car key and cash, you become an easy target. As an added safety measure, lock the doors once you are in the car before you drive off on your way.