Editor's Viewpoint: Elderly need to feel safe from criminals
It is depressing to learn that half of older people in Northern Ireland have become more fearful over the past two years about falling victim to crime. That fear may have more to do with perception than reality, as crimes against the elderly have been falling and now represent only 7% of all incidents.
However, crimes against older people attract disproportionately more publicity than if the victims were younger.
This is often because of the brutality that the thugs inflict on their elderly targets.
Earlier this year an 83-year-old woman was seriously hurt when she jumped from an upstairs window to escape from four men who entered her home in Aughnacloy, and in Kilkeel a pensioner was beaten, bound and gagged by intruders.
Such examples naturally make other older people feel more vulnerable.
They also worry that if they are victims, the perpetrators will escape justice.
There is no doubt that the number of such crimes which are solved fall well below acceptable levels.
The greatest deterrent is the high possibility of being arrested, brought to court and convicted.
If that is not the case, the thugs may feel there are easy pickings to be had. However, not all criminals are intent on bludgeoning their victims to rob them.
Telephone scams are on the increase and older people may be targeted because it is felt they have disposable funds and may not be aware of the tricks used to con them out of that money. As well, conmen calling at homes and charging exorbitant fees for minor repair work is another type of crime that again focuses on older people.
It is important that the elderly are reassured that they are not alone and that there are measures they can take to lessen the chances of falling victim.
They should also be given advice on protecting their homes, information on the types of scams being employed and organisations which can offer them help.
While the Chief Constable has repeatedly pointed out the financial challenges facing the PSNI and the need for more funding for more offices, many elderly people would welcome a higher visibility of officers on the streets and, particularly, in rural areas.
But society can also play its part through neighbours keeping a watchful eye on elderly residents, who deserve to feel safe in their homes in their golden years.