Bullying isn't a problem isolated to kids and teenagers. It's an issue that spans every age demographic, but as the population ages, it's becoming an increasingly common problem among senior citizens—particularly those living in communal living settings such as assisted living or independent living.
Older adult bullying can take many different forms, from offensive jokes to whispering when the victim enters a room, isolating an individual by reserving seats in the dining room and excluding one or more people intentionally, and even actual physical violence. Seniors are sometimes already suffering from depression or feelings of isolation, or perhaps grieving the loss of a spouse or loved one, making older adult bullying a particularly concerning problem.
For senior living communities tasked with providing a warm, comfortable, home-like environment for residents, older adult bullying situations can lead to awkwardness and tension that impacts the well-being of every resident, including those not directly involved in bullying as a victim or perpetrator.
Experts like Dr. Linda Rhodes, a former Secretary of Aging and author of "The Essential Guide for Caring for Aging Parents,"suggest a proactive approach to managing bullying, having residents sign standards of conduct agreements and setting clear expectations regarding bullying behaviors. Senior living communities should also conduct periodic needs assessments to pinpoint potential problem areas before situations escalate, and staff should engage in ongoing discussion to identify concerning behaviors to intervene before they lead to bullying.
If you suspect that your loved one is being bullied, or if your loved one expresses feelings of isolation or discomfort due to the actions of others in her community or social circles, there are some coping strategies for you, as well. Visit our article, Coping with Older Adult Bullying in Senior Living Communities, to learn more about older adult bullying and what you can do as a staff member in a senior living community or a family member of an aging loved one.