‘attack of this kind can be really traumatic’

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In the wake of a knife attack on Gore shopkeeper Edward Cooney, The Ensign reporter Lucy McDonough investigates the immediate effects of violence on the elderly and how to help alleviate them.

Edward Cooney feels safer now a new security system has been installed in his shop.

The recent robbery of the Sunbeam Milk Bar in Coutts Rd, Gore – in which he was attacked with a knife – pushed him to get it installed.

“Since the attack I have been improving and starting to feel better slowly,” Mr Cooney said.

“We have had a few incidents over the years, but particularly after the later one we have been a bit concerned.”

His wife Anne was also concerned for her safety, he said.

“But after the recent installation of the video system I feel safer. It helps the police more, no doubt – it should have been installed sooner.

“I planned to do it after the attack prior to this one, but we never got round to it.”

Anyone who found themselves in a violent situation should “stay calm”, Mr Cooney said.

“Do as they ask and it’s a really big thing to remember to stay calm.”

Victim Support Southland acting area manager Peter Guest said everyone who had been subjected to violence suffered after-effects, but they could be particularly hard for the elderly.

“Any attack of this kind can be really traumatic for anyone .. As for older people, they can become more scared as they are more vulnerable physically and sometimes they can be lacking support,” Mr Guest said.

People could put on a brave front which might give the impression everything was OK, Mr Guest said.

“I think older people are very strong-willed .. You have to talk with a person, gain their confidence and engage with them – and on the second or third time you ask them if they are OK, you may get a different answer.”

There were various ways to help yourself recover after a traumatic event, such as “accepting what you’re feeling and giving yourself permission to feel sad, angry, hurt or whatever is a good start”, he said.

“Let other people help you out in practical and supportive ways. Don’t feel like you have to say no – take the help.

“Eating well helps too .. Keep up your fluids.”

Most important was to remember to take things slowly.

“Take it one day at a time, or one hour at a time.”