A leading elderly rights campaigner has called on large shopping centres to introduce "designated safe and secure shopping hours" for older people after thieves targeted a pensioner in the aisles of her local supermarket.
Paddy O’Brien, who has spent over 60 years advocating for older people, made the suggestion on Friday after details on a robbery in Cork City emerged.
“The effect a callous crime like this can have on older people is appalling. It can affect them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Two teenagers targeted a woman during her weekly shop in Dunnes Stores in Blackpool on Tuesday morning.
The woman, 67, who had placed her handbag on the trolley’s drink holder, left the trolley unattended for about five seconds to go to another aisle, and returned to find her trolley gone.
Two teenagers pushed it towards the exit, then grabbed her handbag and fled the shopping centre on foot, leaving the woman distraught.
They later dropped the bag, but took a quantity of cash and a mobile phone.
Her son, Paul, told theon Cork’s RedFM that Dunnes' staff could not have been more helpful, that they gave her a cup of tea, comforted her and covered the cost of her shopping.
But he said he wanted to highlight the incident to warn others and to appeal for the return of the phone.
“It’s an old phone and it’s of no use to anyone but it has loads of memories of her grandchildren since their birth, communions, birthdays, and videos,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said: “It’s just unbelievable that people would stoop so low as to target an older woman on her own."
He urged shopping centre managers to increase the presence of high-visibility security staff and to consider introducing dedicated safe shopping hours for pensioners.
“There is no greater deterrent than a security uniform,” he said. “But I think dedicated safe shopping hours for pensioners would pay off in the long-term.
“And there would be a social aspect to it too — they could meet other people their same age, have a chat, and it would give people an extra sense of security.”
Gardaí examined CCTV footage from the shop at the time of the robbery, and two teenagers were arrested in the shopping centre several hours later for questioning in connection with the incident.
They were subsequently released without charge and inquiries are continuing.