We can all play part in protecting elderly
Strabane man Patsy Gillespie was the victim of a robbery in his home last October that left him shaken and disbelieving that such vile thuggery existed. Yet this weekend he will celebrate his 102nd birthday, having put the ordeal behind him and got on with his previous life, which includes madcap inventions and lots of laughter.
Patsy is obviously a very resilient man and he was buoyed by the support and goodwill messages he received after people read of the burglary in this newspaper.
But many more elderly people have found it difficult to bounce back after being subjected to burglaries or robberies, often accompanied by quite vicious assaults. The scale of the problem is enormous, running at three burglaries a day on average against elderly people.
It is a particularly mean crime, picking out frail people, often in the belief that they will have ready money in their homes compared to younger people who use plastic more often than cash.
The thieves also know that there is little chance of their targets fighting back, although they reckoned without the daughter of an 87-year-old when they broke into his home in Portadown on Sunday evening. The woman, who has Down's syndrome, grappled with the three masked men who had assaulted her dad and it took two of them to fight her off. Neighbours also arrived at the scene and the thieves, in typically cowardly fashion, fled.
It is easy to say that the PSNI should do more, but the closure of many police stations during the past two decades, and with patrols being thin on the ground, there is an obvious problem in trying to prevent such crimes.
One of the most effective ways of protecting our elderly people is for neighbours to keep a friendly eye on them, watching out for strange vehicles seen near their homes or unfamiliar faces entering the property in the late evening or night.
However, the thieves are adept at picking their targets well, often older people who live alone or in remote rural locations where there is less chance of being observed.
There are preventative measures that the elderly can take to make their homes more secure, and technological aids are available to enable them to quickly call for assistance in an emergency. Although many elderly people are fearful of becoming victims, the good news is that their chances of being attacked are still small.
Reopening of stores a boost for city after Primark blaze
There will be a partial return to normality for Belfast city centre over the next couple of weeks. Primark, which suffered a devastating fire three months ago, is due to reopen part of its building and another 10 shops forced to stop trading because of the proximity of the damaged building will also begin trading on December 8. It is all welcome news to the business community in the city after a dramatic drop in footfall in the wake of the blaze.
A lot of effort has been put into enticing shoppers back to the city and the crowds last weekend showed it was having a positive effect. Reopening Primark can only add to the feelgood factor.