Bullying Affects 10 to 20 Percent of Senior Citizens

November 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Bully Information

Senior woman

We always want to believe the best in people, and in most cases, we’ve been taught that as we get older we become wiser and abandon childish behavior. But many adults can attest to this truth — some people just never seem to change. And that is never more accurate than with individuals who either were bullies in their youth or those who were bullied in earlier years.

If you have a parent or grandparent who lives in an assisted-living center or longterm care facility, your visits are important to their well-being. Not only will your visits bring them happiness, but you’ll also use them to make sure they are being cared for.

Visit the assisted living center at various times of the day. You’ll get a feel for how well the residents and staff interact. Further, ask the staff directly if there is an established policy against bullying in their senior living community. The staff at Emeritus Senior Living in Dallas, for example, is trained to respond quickly, believing that intervention — especially quick intervention — is the key to successfully combating the bullying challenge and preventing long-term effects.

Bullying Tactics Among Senior Population

Gerontology expert Robin Bonifas told NBC News that 10 to 20 percent of seniors have experienced senior-to-senior aggression in an institutional setting, much of it verbal. It is more likely to take place in common areas, such as the cafeteria and lounge.

Vickie Bullock, a social worker in Marquette, Mich., told UpperMichiganSource.com that people who were bullies when they were younger continue to do it as they age. Senior bullying comes in many forms:

  • Vying for attention of staffers
  • Malicious gossip
  • Degrading insults
  • Attempts to exclude the victim from community activities

Washington, D.C.-based psychologist Renee Garfinkel, who specializes in aging, said that while fear could be at the root of senior bullying, that’s not the whole story. Garfinkel says senior bullying involves “that human phenomenon of the strong picking on the weak.”

What To Look For

Victims of this type of bullying might be reluctant to tell family members that the bullying is happening. They might not even realize that’s what it is. Family members can spot tell-tale signs when the senior attempts to isolate himself and avoids community activities. Sleep challenges, chronic fatigue and depression are major signals that something in the environment might be affecting them.

Emeritus has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying between staff and patients. Make sure your loved one’s facility has the same policy, and watch for signs of verbal abuse turning to physical abuse. Dr. Helene Pavlov writes in Huffington Post that doctors who care for the elderly are trained to recognize symptoms like excessive bruising and broken bones. She adds that as victims lose their mental and physical abilities, they lose the ability to protect themselves, so it’s up to staff and loved ones to look out for their best interests. Watch for extreme changes in your relative’s moods, and try to draw him or her into conversations about fellow residents. Are they making friends? Who do they eat lunches with? Will they introduce you around? Their reactions to those questions will offer clues to their well-being.


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