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Published: Aug 13th, 2018

Bullying Among Seniors is Real - Keys to Identifying Problem

Identifying Bullying Among Seniors
Article Updated:January 30th, 2020

Isn't it shocking that, apart from having to deal with the everyday stressors of aging, many seniors are the victims of bullying as well? Their peers bully up to 20% of residents in senior care facilities across the USA, according to research conducted at the Arizona State University

As is often the case with younger victims of bullying, seniors tend to find it very difficult to stand up and vocalize their situation, allowing the bullying to continue – often with grave consequences. It is of vital importance that senior bullying is not only identified as soon as possible but eradicated as well to ensure that the victimized senior is afforded the best possible opportunity to resume a stress-free, happy life. 

How to Spot Senior Bullying

Senior bullying manifests itself in numerous ways, including physical and emotional abuse, as well as social exclusion, which can be of great detriment to the elderly individual.  In terms of senior housing, bullying is most often observed during times where the need to share a space in unavoidable, such as at mealtimes and during bingo games or line dancing. Any adverse interaction between seniors could be a sign of bullying. Yelling, slurring insults, name-calling, and being overly critical are all signs of verbal bullying, while physical abuse can include anything from hitting, tripping, pushing, and kicking. 

National Center for Assisted Living

The Emotional Consequence of Bullying

While some elderly bullying victims will fight back, most won’t as they either fear for their safety or are embarrassed by what is transpiring. Victims of bullying often display significant emotional changes, appearing depressed or withdrawn and may even be lashing out in anger. 

It is also important to acknowledge that bullying can also harm those witnessing it, even if they are not direct victims themselves. While it is easy to tell people to report bullying, it doesn't always happen, mainly due to intimidation, which occurs among the elderly just as frequently as among younger bullies. Bullying can trigger severe fear in a senior, which often resurfaces as depression even after the abuse has been terminated.

Preventing Bullying Among Seniors

Once bullying has been suspected, it is pertinent to act fast, providing the bullied senior with sufficient emotional support and professional medical attention here necessary. All senior housing establishments should have a straight forward no-bullying policy that has to be enforced by staff members at all times. 

Once the perpetrator has been identified, he/she needs to be isolated immediately, and a thorough investigation must commence. There are many ways in which bullying can be addressed, usually at the discretion of the governing body and management of the establishment. In an ideal world, basic conflict resolution will suffice, and the bullying will cease. Unfortunately, the reality is always as forthcoming, and, in some instances, it may be necessary to find alternative accommodation for caustic individuals.

Bullying is never pleasant, not for the victim and not for their loved ones either. It is even more traumatizing for the elderly who already have to endure the everyday obstacles of aging. By identifying and terminating any abusive behavior as soon as it rears its head, the ensuing trauma inflicted can be minimized as much as possible.