elderly bullying
Property Casualty

Help Stop the Bullying

Harold Kavan
Harold Kavan
Property Casualty

When you hear the word bully, where does your mind immediately go? Maybe it’s to a time back when you were a child or maybe it’s to a recent news report on bullying happening in schools. No matter the case, we typically think of children and adolescents. Unfortunately, this is a very real problem in the older adult population.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines bullying as: “…a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words, or more subtle actions. The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to ’cause’ the bullying.”

To take this a step further, existing studies suggest about 1 in 5 seniors encounters bullying.  Bullying is thought to be an outgrowth of frustrations in communal settings, as well as a reflection of issues unique to getting older. Many elderly see their independence and sense of control disappear leaving them feeling powerless in a controlled setting. For some, becoming a bully can make them feel like they have regained some of that lost power.

Bullying can have severe adverse effects on the victims. But for seniors whose bodies tend to be more sensitive, the effects of bullying can aggravate health ailments, making them even more weak and vulnerable. Seniors require a strong sense of social acceptance. Being ostracized by their peers can cause emotional distress/anguish, which greatly decreases their quality of life. While some may discount the following incidents as accidental, they are forms of bullying:

  • Saving or reserving seats in dining rooms or other events for ‘members of their group,’ leaving newer members of the community with less-desirable seats. While these behaviors seem innocent enough, they may leave those outside the ‘group’ feeling isolated or having to dine alone or attend the program alone.
  • Stealing or destroying property, such as taking someone else’s detergent or clothes or dumping clothes on the floor in communal laundry rooms.
  • Criticizing or ridiculing another senior who doesn’t meet the individual’s preference regarding clothing, social status, religion, sexual orientation, economic background, or any other characteristic or social status.
  • Offensive gestures, facial expressions, or body language.
  • Spreading rumors or whispering when the victim enters a room. There are numerous stories of bingo halls becoming battlefields with lucky newcomers being badgered and accused of cheating by veteran players.
  • Verbal or physical abuse, including yelling, hitting, or pushing.

Bullying is a problem that only gets worse when it’s ignored. Think about the movie “Mean Girls”…only in this case, everyone in the movie is 80+ years old. It’s a very sad, very real issue.

I’ve copied a few articles below that shed light on the issue and potential remedies. If you work in a senior living facility, I urge you to read through these.

At Holmes Murphy, we’re focused on senior living and we’re able to assist with identifying potential issues and offer various types of training and programs to address the exposures/potential issues, before the actions become a problem. Please reach out to us. Together we can stop this horrible trend of bullying!

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