Home security for seniors | Inquirer Opinion
Gray Matters

Home security for seniors

/ 04:25 AM March 07, 2023

I was nearly burglarized the other night. It was around 2 a.m. when I woke up because of the dogs barking. I listened intently and could hear someone walking, very slowly, on the roof. Prowling would be a better word.

I got up and called out, in my lowest baritone voice, “Sino ’yan?” and turned on all the lights in the garden.

The sounds stopped, and the dogs calmed down. I stayed up maybe half an hour thinking about home security for older Filipinos and the pros and cons of each option. With a bit of additional research, I thought it’d be good to share those thoughts with readers.

First, getting someone like a household helper to stay in the house, something my children have been pressuring me to do, alarmed that I’m alone most of the time. I’m just not convinced. I may be old, but I’m still relatively fit and can take care of many chores, the heavier ones with my driver. Having household helpers can mean more responsibilities for me. It’d be even worse if it were male household help. My mother very wisely decided many years ago that we would never have live-in security guards, drivers, or houseboys, for many different reasons, some of which you may suspect.


Second, building higher walls, maybe with electric fences. I had a contractor renovating my home many years ago, and he was adamantly opposed to high fencing, which he said simply attracts burglars and worse. In fact, he said, once they get into the house, no one outside, including roaming guards, would know you’ve been burglarized.

Third, installing window grills, especially popular with Chinese Filipinos. Alas, I’ve heard of too many fires in homes with grills that ended up trapping residents inside the house … and killing them. There are also aesthetic reasons working against the grills—they deface not only the home but the neighborhood.

Fourth, keeping guns. Worst option, from risks of accidental firing to, and the studies are clear, raising the possibility that armed burglars will use their guns too.

I think the key is to be able to get quick help when needed. The cost of surveillance camera systems and alarms has gone down, and we just need to be strategic about where they’re installed and how they are connected so you can call for help.


The ones we have today are quite sophisticated, allowing you to download apps on your cellphone, so you can check from wherever you are, even while overseas. But I protest, partly in jest, telling my children I don’t want them to catch me lounging around the house in my duster.

I already mentioned dogs, which have been our family security for years, and, here, I wanted to offer some advice to enhance their reliability.


Leashing is fine when you’re walking dogs but keeping them tethered or tied the whole day, which is common in the Philippines, is considered animal cruelty in at least 23 states in the US. Besides dumbing down the dog, constant tethering means constant whining and barking, which makes them a nuisance for the whole neighborhood. Moreover, with the dog or dogs barking all the time, you won’t know anymore if they’re doing that because of a passerby or a burglar trying to enter the house.

Paradoxically, constant tethering can also mean dogs who end up quiet and sleeping most of the time, with no interest in life and losing all zest for even friendly barking.

Larger breeds of dogs are better at guarding, and you’ll find a list of the best “guardian dogs” on the American Kennel Club website. I wasn’t surprised that dachshunds weren’t listed, but the small breeds aren’t too bad either; in fact, they can be quite “talkative,” yapping their heads off.

Finally, better to let the dogs loose at night, but within your own home. Outdoors is all right for larger breeds, but even with them, you might want to consider letting them into the house, which stimulates their territorial instincts. Be careful though with the males if they’re not neutered because they’ll guard your house, and mark it as well, especially the furniture, by peeing.

Burglars or no burglars, dogs top my list as security, physically and mentally.

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TAGS: Seniors

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