Elderly Hawke's Bay residents are being warned to be vigilant against intruders following a spate of vicious attacks on pensioners.

Age Concern Hastings social worker Tania Kiwara said elderly should not feel unnecessarily frightened, but like anyone else they should not take their safety for granted.

Police are still searching for an offender after an attack on an 87-year-old Hastings woman who was dragged into her home and sexually assaulted by a man who accosted her while she checked her letterbox on Thursday.

Other incidents include:


* A 77-year-old Papatoetoe woman who forgot to lock her door and woke to an unknown man sexually assaulting her about 6.30am on Sunday. A 39-year-old Manurewa man appeared in Manukau District Court yesterday charged in connection with the attack.

* A brutal home invasion in Pukekohe on Friday in which an elderly couple were assaulted and tied up before offenders fled with the couple's cash and jewellery.

* An attack on 83-year-old Whangarei pensioner Ronald Liddell who was assaulted by two teenage "trick or treaters" on November 2 when he let the offenders into his home.

* A string of Whangarei intruder burglaries targeting elderly victims while they slept.

The incidents follow attacks on elderly Auckland women in June in which an offender broke into their homes, tied victims up and assaulted them with a weapon before robbing them.

Mrs Kiwara said Hawke's Bay elderly should keep gardens trimmed so neighbours could check on them, or keep a pair of male's shoes at the front door.

"In saying that we should be able to have our doors open and check our mailboxes in the middle of the day."

She recommended elderly ask strangers for identification or ask a few questions before opening their door.

"Make sure that you report an incident. Ask people for support and don't try and be stoic and try and manage these traumatic events by yourself."

Police are still searching for the man responsible for the attack on Thursday last week.

The incident happened about midday, as the 87-year-old was pulling weeds from her front garden in broad daylight.

She was left with bruises all over her body.

She scared the offender off by saying her son, who also lived at the address, was coming home for lunch.

Relatives were offering support but said a full recovery would take time. They declined to make any further comment about the investigation or her condition.

The spate of attacks nationwide has prompted calls from police and politicians for communities to step up and support their elderly residents.

"The elderly in our community is a vulnerable group, just as children are, and they need to be regarded as such," Counties Manukau Detective Inspector Jim Gallagher said.

Police Community Services manager Inspector Glyn Rowland said the decreasing New Zealand crime rate meant a reduced risk of attack on elderly victims.

However, elderly were more at risk of long-term effects from physical, financial and emotional harm as their ability to recover was limited.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson recommended pensioners carry emergency alarms for additional safety.

"We need to stand together to show our elderly that they are respected and supported.

"Neighbours and friends are the support that will make all our citizens feel safe in their own home."

People can get in touch with Hastings Police on 06 8730500 or call Crimestoppers.