You shouldn’t have to worry about bullying in your golden years. Isn’t that one of the perks of growing older and your peers growing wiser? Apparently, living without bullies is not guaranteed. Bullying among senior citizens is a growing problem, and can impact your health and welfare.
Belittling someone publicly is a common form of bullying. It’s one of the reasons why senior citizens may avoid social and religious gatherings, or eat alone in retirement communities or at nursing homes. For example, a caregiver complained to a columnist about her mother’s bully at an assisted living facility. The bully belittled her mom during meals, often referring to her appearance and mannerisms. Her mom has a chronic illness which makes her weak. Unfortunately, seniors who are frail become easy targets. What’s equally sad is how others who witnessed the bullying, staff included, did not speak out against it. Her story sounds similar to what some middle school and high school students face on a daily basis.
Fabricating lies against a co-resident is another form of bullying. The bully’s goal is to get a resident to leave, transfer or get kicked out. This is common in age-restricted communities with home owners association boards. The bully initiates complaints suggesting that the senior adult being bullied is in violation of a policy. Whether or not the complaints are successful is sometimes irrelevant to both the bully and the one person being bullied. The harassment is sufficient to cause worry, weariness, and pain.
Bossy behavior is another way to detect a bully. Some bullies get away with intimidating others because of their old age. Staff ignore their aggressive behavior towards others because they attribute it to the aging process. There’s a difference between being assertive and bossy. When you’re assertive, you communicate your thoughts and intentions clearly. You can be stern, but positive. Your intent is not to cause harm to others. A bully uses aggressive behavior to get her way, using insults and often raising her voice.
If you’re a victim of bullying, confide in someone. Notify the appropriate staff members. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to other like-minded individuals about what’s taking place. Invite family and friends to join you for a meal to observe the behavior. Get informed about the protocols put in place by the administration or board to deal with bullying. Do something. Your health and well-being is at stake.