Bullying: Elders Are Victims Too

Bullying as it relates to young people is back in the news thanks in part to the recent school shootings in Ohio. But were you aware that bullying is not just common among adolescents, but something that is experienced by our older adults? According to Robin Bonifas in her article in the latest edition of AARP Bulletin (www.aarp.org/bulletin), 10-20% of residents in senior care homes are mistreated by their peers. She cites examples of name calling, bossy behavior, loud arguments, and even cases of physical violence. Senior centers, assisted living and long-term care facilities can become a “forced” communal living situation with a mixture of personalities and ways of relating to others that are lifelong behaviors. Some facilities and centers have adopted strategies to preempt aggressive behavior, including:

  • Signing a code of conduct to treat peers with consideration and respect with written reprimands or other penalties if the code is not followed
  • Resident ambassadors to help transition newcomers into a community
  • Coaching by staff on how to cope with snubs and aggression
  • Teaching elders empathy for the physical and cognitive difficulties of others.

In another article, Sara Hacala provides a “civility tool kit” to help reverse the trend of escalating rudeness in our society. Two of these tools that can have great impact within a senior community are: 1) making a habit of practicing kindness, generosity and gratitude towards others, and 2) nurturing social relationships (balancing the impersonal nature of the Internet with phone calls and in-person contacts).

We can all act as positive role models for each other and hopefully create a cultural shift away from bullying and rudeness and towards better connectiveness.

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