Retirement Communities

11/11/2020 | By Terri L. Jones

Maybe your kids were bullied in school or you were bullied as a child yourself. But did you know seniors can be the victims of this humiliating and isolating behavior too? Senior bullying, in fact, has turned into a huge issue in communities everywhere.

Cliques Aren’t Just For Kids

Because clique systems exist within groups of seniors just like they do with children, bullying – which is based on a physical or social power imbalance between aggressor and victim – can be part and parcel of a senior’s everyday life. This behavior could be as seemingly benign as rude comments about the clothing a person is wearing, or exclusion from social functions … or even as terrifying as verbal or physical aggression. However, it is always repeated and always carries hostile intent.

According to a March 2012 AARP Bulletin, 10 to 20 percent of older adults living in senior living communities experience senior bullying at some point in time. In fact, bullying has become so prevalent in settings where seniors gather that psychologists, sociologists, and gerontologists are beginning to study why it’s happening and what can be done about it.

Why Seniors Bully

These experts have found that this behavior can result from the bullies feeling powerless over the rest of their lives. Maybe they had to give up their home, they can no longer drive wherever they want, or they’re limited in their physical capabilities. Engaging in this antagonizing and degrading behavior gives them some measure of control back.

Bullying can also give a senior social status, just like with their younger counterparts. It can make them feel like the big woman (women tend to bully more than men) or man on campus. This harassing conduct can also be the result of mental illness, dementia or physical discomfort.

What You Should Do

Here are some steps to take if you or a loved one is experiencing bullying:

  • Try to ignore the behavior, which can weaken the bully’s perceived power.
  • Maintain eye contact with your aggressor.
  • Don’t interrupt, provoke or show anger to the person bullying you. That will only feed the behavior.
  • Try to understand what the bully might be going through. These circumstances may be contributing to his or her behavior.
  • If you’re in a senior living community or other organized group, report the bullying to staff, so that they can address it and try to put a stop to the behavior.

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide. She also writes for many other local magazines and publications.

Terri L. Jones