Living Solo: 19 Safety Tips for Living Alone
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Catherine Yeulet
If you’re living alone, you’re in good company. According to the latest census data, there are now 3,673,305 one-person households in Canada — that’s about 28 per cent of households overall and more than the number of households with a couple and children. In the last 50 years, the portion of our population that lives alone has more than tripled to 13.5 per cent.
Whether it’s due to preference or circumstance such as divorce, living alone has its challenges along with its rewards. If you or someone you know lives alone, here are some tips to do it safely.
Get to know your neighbours. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself — neighbours have a way of looking out for each other. When you’re familiar with the people on your street or in your building, you’ll be better able to spot someone who shouldn’t be there.
Avoid telling people you live alone. You might mention “it’s just me” in an innocent conversation, but you never know how far the news will spread. Experts advise against giving out this unnecessary information — especially to seemingly friendly strangers.
Mind your social media. When you “check in” or post status updates revealing your whereabouts, you could be giving away crucial information about your routine, when your home is empty and when you’re home alone. You should be careful with your privacy settings, but experts say it’s best to avoid these updates altogether.
Adjust your answering machine message. Experts suggest excluding your name in the outgoing message on your home phone line and saying “we” instead of “I”. (“We can’t come to the phone right now”, for example.) If you’re uncomfortable with the white lie, be vague: “No one is available to take your call.”
Lock up. Regardless of where you live, experts say it’s a smart habit to keep your doors locked at all times — even when you are home. (“Dead bolts” or “barrel locks” are best.) The same goes for your windows and sliding doors — make sure they’re secure and install alarms for extra security if you feel they are needed.
Install a peephole. People who live alone need to be extra cautious about who they let into their homes. A peep hole or window lets you see who’s there — and ask for I.D., if needed — before you open the door to a stranger.
Be aware of your surroundings. Are there places around your home where people could hide? Are there suspicious people lurking about? At home or on the road, experts warn to be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you live in an apartment, beware that common areas like the laundry room or gym and dumpsters can be unsafe at night — it’s best to handle chores earlier in the day.
Trim your shrubs. Any trees, bushes or structures around your home can conceal a would-be thief or peeping tom. Make sure your neighbours and passersby can see prowlers with the 3-foot/7-foot rule: shrubs shouldn’t be more than three feet high and tree branches shouldn’t hang lower than seven feet.
Install good lighting. Crooks don’t want to be seen so outdoor flood lights and motion-sensor lights can be an effective deterrent. For your own safety and the safety of your guests, bright lighting around walkways and doors can help prevent falls. Indoors, night lights and motion-sensor lights can provide well-lit pathways to keep you safe walking around at night.
Make good use of your curtains and blinds. Could a stranger see your big screen TV or watch you through the window? Curtains and blinds can improve your privacy and hide temptation, especially when you aren’t at home.
Remove safety hazards. Hazards such as scatter rugs, dangling cords and clutter around stairs are dangerous for everyone. If you have rugs or bath mats, make sure they’re secure and non-slip. Safety measures like secure railings on staircases are smart no matter what your age or status. (See Simple steps to make your home safer for more details.)
Get help with chores. Avoid injuries and falling risks by getting help with potentially risky tasks around the house. Enlist a friend or neighbour to help with any heavy lifting, or to spot you if you need to tackle a task on a step ladder.