This week, June 15 to 22, is Elder Abuse Awareness week.

How utterly sad that New Zealand has to have such a thing.

We need to ask ourselves some questions. Why do the vulnerable in our society, the young and the old, need protection?

One of the answers is, of course, that they are easy targets. Bullies like easy targets, although according to my 6-year-old grandson a bully is someone that is only mean because he wants to be friends.

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That may be true in the playground where it's likely that the bullies are bullied by people that should know better. People that should be loving and caring for them.

It's the same for the elderly. Yes, there are cases of the elderly being abused in rest homes but the majority of people that work in rest homes are kind and caring, doing a job that pays peanuts.

According to the Age Concern website more than 75 per cent of alleged elderly abusers are family members, 50 per cent of that number are either children or grandchildren.

Before retirement and rest homes became the norm, families stayed together — the young looking after the old, reversing roles.

It's not just physical abuse we are talking about. It's also financial abuse. Taking advantage of someone's confusion or simply taking over their finances and using the money for themselves.

How awful.

It appears that some people simply have no respect for anyone. One day these abusers will be the vulnerable — hopefully their families have broken the chain and they are treated with love and respect.

A friend told me recently that during a trip to Spain one of the things that stood out for her was how family-orientated the Spanish were.

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She said it was a common sight to see grandparents, children and grandchildren out at restaurants eating together. Maybe we need to take a leaf out of their book.

I imagine loneliness is a big issue for many elderly people, especially in today's world where family members have spread around the world.

If you have an elderly neighbour, pop in and say hello. Ten minutes of your time would most likely make their day.

If you are elderly and feeling isolated or you suspect that someone is being abused call Age Concern on 06 870 9060