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Published: Aug 13th, 2018

Bullying Among Seniors is Real - Keys to Identifying Problem

Identifying Bullying Among Seniors

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? Up to 20% of residents in senior care facilities across the USA are bullied by their peers 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 meal times 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 there are some elderly bullying victims that 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  Victims of bullying often display significant emotional changes, appearing depressed or withdrawn and may even be lashing out in anger.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 important to also acknowledge that bullying can also have an adverse effect on those witnessing it, even if they aren’t 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 very clear 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 but unfortunately, 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 consequent trauma inflicted can be minimized as much as possible.