ABUSE of the elderly is no longer a forbidden term.

All statutory community service organisations have, these days, well-set guidelines and action plans.

Whether such incidents are regularly reported or looked for, is a different matter.

It can be said, however, that on the league table, abuse of the frail and vulnerable older people is nowhere near the abuse of children or housewives.

It is a matter of perception of the society.

Children are important, therefore any misbehaviour to them is important.

The elderly are not important, especially if they are frail, dependent and perhaps mentally somewhat infirm.

Our dealings with the old are consequential to our overall attitude to their status and honour.

Despite many articles, leaflets and media programmes, it is worth remembering that the most-frequent form of abuse of older people is verbal berating, rudeness and impropriety.

The next most frequent ones are some form of physical assault. Although an indictable offence, such assaults usually do not get noticed, investigated or reported.

The victims are usually too scared or quite often too mentally infirm to make them a credible witness.

Next is financial abuse. Too much money is taken for shopping, the on-the-door trader charging almost double the usual rate, loose cash is stolen from the purse or a drawer by an attendant, etc.

Then there are the big ones — application of all sorts of pressure to get some favour, money, property valuable possessions, etc. Wills are even rewritten under duress.

Sometimes, to receive some basic service from relations, old people hand out money — “do my shopping, I’ll give you a fiver” says the granny to her 12-year-old grandson.

It is his duty to help her, but, these days, where money is everything, the youngsters expect such hand outs.

These also are incorrect and do amount to financial abuse.

Conning the elderly, relatives or not, is common and even when the amount involved is not great, a small amount may mean a lot to a poor pensioner.

I have already mentioned rogue traders. While most traders are honest and decent professionals, a few are not.

Some of these cases have been detected by the media with hidden cameras and broadcast on national TV.

From last year, the national sentencing council has introduced stricter guidelines for such crimes. This might act as a deterrent.

As responsible, law-abiding citizens, we all have a duty towards our vulnerable elderly.

What is needed is a general social awareness, the sort that exists widely in relation to the abuse of children.

I sincerely hope that this new legal step will help older people and act as a deterrent against such heinous behaviour to one of the vulnerable groups.