Approximately 35% of Americans have a gun in their home. Naturally, some of these gun owners are elders. Gun safety is important for anyone who has a gun in the home, but special issues may arise for elderly gun owners. Here are a few of the considerations regarding gun safety and older adults:
- Cognitive issues (persons with dementia can become paranoid, may have difficulty with complex thinking, and may eventually lack competency in decision making)
- Concerns for caregivers and other helpers/agencies coming in to the home
- Compromised eyesight and hearing (higher chances of inaccurate shooting/accidents)
- Reduced strength and slower reflexes (could make it more likely an intruder could wrestle the gun away and use it on the owner)
- Suicide/depression considerations: Older adults make up 12% of the US population, but account for 18% of all suicide deaths. They have high rates of suicide completion because of methodology (guns being primary) and the highest prevalence of double suicides of partners/spouses.
Addressing gun safety with your aging parents can be a complicated issue. The first step is to open up the discussion (some adult children may not even be aware that elderly parents have guns in the home). You can express your concerns about Mom or Dad having a gun at home and talk about options (selling the firearm or storing it offsite, for example). It is important to know the legalities of transferring the gun…it’s not just as simple as moving it to your home. We’ll have a guest post coming up soon from a police expert, with answers to frequently asked gun safety questions!
If your aging parent claims the gun(s) do not need to be removed, it is important to assess the safety issues. Age is not automatically a reason a person can’t have a gun at home. A professional can help you look at the big picture, assessing the areas mentioned above and other factors.
If the assessment confirms safety problems, the evidence should be presented to the elder. Our experts can help guide that discussion. Many times an outside party can be influential and coming to an agreement is better than having to force the issue. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience with these and other safety discussions, as well as how to approach the whole process in a dignified manner and get the elder’s buy-in.
However, much like with senior driving safety, there are times when the person may not agree and additional steps need to be taken to protect the elder and others. Check out our previous EasyLiving gun safety article and stay tuned for our guest expert post for more!