UPDATED 08/12/11 10:00 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — An 85-year-old man remains hospitalized after being shot during a robbery attempt in the Chatham neighborhood, and police say there is a rash of robberies affecting the elderly in that area.

The man was watering his lawn in the 8200 block of South Wabash Avenue around 1:45 p.m. Thursday, when a suspect came up and announced a robbery, police sad. The older man grabbed the suspect by the shirt and the suspect fired his gun, shooting the man in the thigh.

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“But he still managed to defend himself because he punched the offender in the face and kind of knocked him off balance,” police News Affairs Officer Robert Perez said. “It dazed (the suspect) a little.”

The older man was taken in serious to critical condition to Advocate Trinity Hospital, according to the Chicago Fire Department’s Twitter feed. Perez said the condition of the victim was stable.

It was not known what, if anything, was stolen, but the gunman ran to a black or blue Pontiac Grand Prix with temporary plates which was waiting at a Shell station near 83rd and State streets, Perez said. The driver and suspect then drove away north on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

Perez said there was no indication the victim was a retired Chicago Police officer, as some media reports had suggested.

The suspect was described only as a dark-complected black man between 19 and 25, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 11 inches with brown eyes and black hair.

 The crime occurred on a Chatham street where people take care of their lawns. The victim, whom neighbors identified as “Mr. Alexander,” was often seen watering his grass.

 Mary Jones and her brother heard the shooting.

 “He looks out and sees Mr. Alexander on the ground and he hollers at the young man, ‘What are you doing?’ and Mr. Alexander yells to my brother, ‘Kenny, he shot me and he’s trying to rob me,'” she told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman.

Meanwhile, police say a rash of robberies in which seniors are being targeted has hit the South Side, particularly in the police districts that include South Shore, Woodlawn, Grand Crossing, Chatham and Auburn-Gresham.

The seniors are seen doing chores around the grounds of their homes, such as cutting grass and gardening, police said. Contractors and landscapers working on property in the area have also been targeted, police said.

The description of the robber and his car are the same as those for the gunman who shot the 85-year-old man.

Police advise not working around the house alone and staying in well-lit areas, and calling 911 to report anyone and anything suspicious. Seniors are also urged to call their Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Implementation Office and the Senior Citizens’ Unit, and be acutely aware of your surroundings.

No arrests had been made as of Friday morning, Perez said. Anyone with information ias asked to call Calumet Area detectives, at (312) 747-8273.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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