By Betty Berry, Tuesday, December 21, 2010  Q: I keep reading about all types of crime and I’m almost afraid to leave my house for fear that I will become a victim. Am I, as a senior, more vulnerable, and what can I do to reduce my chances of becoming a statistic?

A: We do hear about a lot of crime, but that shouldn’t stop us from living our lives. We just must be more aware of what is going on around us and be prepared.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, some categories of crime, such as robbery and purse snatching, are more likely directed toward the elderly. Offenders view elderly women as easier targets than elderly men, but men also are often victims of these personal thefts.

By taking a few simple precautions, you should be able to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

Always be prepared. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and the people around you at all times, both day and night. Walk with confidence.

Give the appearance of knowing where you are going — even if you don’t. If you look lost or confused you appear to be an easy target. How you present yourself is very important and could be enough to deter a potential crime.

Women’s purses and men’s wallets are always targets. Women should carry their purses close to their bodies, never dangled from an arm. Purses should never be left unattended on a store counter or in a shopping cart.

Men should never carry wallets in their back pockets. Even amateur pickpockets can remove a wallet from that location before you can realize what has happened.

Wallets should always be placed in an inside jacket pocket.

Carry your cash and credit cards in separate locations and never carry more cash than necessary. When making a purchase avoid showing your cash.

There is some truth in the saying, “there is safety in numbers,” so plan to go out with a friend when possible.

Q: I’ve been driving for 62 years, have a good record and a valid driver’s license. The Department of Motor Vehicles just invited me for an interview. What would cause such a request? Is it because I’m going to be 80 years old?

A: Your age, by itself, would not trigger such a request. There are, however, several reasons for an interview, and your age could be one of many factors that are considered.

During the course of an individual’s driving career, the DMV monitors a driver’s abilities and keeps track of accidents and traffic violations. An excessive number of either could result in a request for an interview.

Physicians are mandated to report and explain to the DMV findings that relate to driving skills. When such a report is received, the individual is contacted for an interview and, if necessary, given a driving test.

The DMV may also receive a letter from a friend or family member who is concerned about a driver’s safety. Such a letter also will trigger a contact by the DMV.

The DMV’s responsibility is to license only those who qualify for driving privileges by passing the required tests. Before revoking such privileges, they must have actual evidence that a driver is no longer qualified. This evidence is obtained through interviews and testing.

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Just a reminder there are now only nine days remaining in Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period. If you plan to change your healthcare insurance coverage or your Medicare Part D Prescription plan, this is the time to do it. Annual open enrollment runs through Dec. 31. The coverage you are enrolled in on Dec. 31 will be the coverage that you will have for the year 2011. If you have questions or need assistance, contact the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program. They can be reached at 800-434-0222.

— Betty Berry is a senior concerns advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; phone 495-6250 or e-mail include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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