There are many reasons why our clients and their families at Support For Home want to age in place, in their own homes. It is a very sad thing that one of those reasons, that most folks do not even know about until they move into a senior facility, is bullying.
A very disturbing article at MSNBC.com is entitled “Mean Old Girls: Seniors Who Bully”. It highlights what we have heard a few sad stories about from colleagues in the industry and residents at a few assisted living facilities.
A central quote from that story is a bit chilling:
… according to experts, gray-haired bullies do exist and, as with their younger counterparts, their behavior can run the gamut from verbal intimidation to physical violence.
“It’s kind of an institutional thing,” says gerontology expert Robin Bonifas, an assistant professor at Arizona State University School of Social Work, who’s currently researching senior-to-senior bullying. “It tends to take place in senior centers or nursing homes or assisted living facilities, places where they’re spending a lot of time and need to share resources, whether it’s chairs or tables or TV stations or staff attention.”
Frankly, dealing with issues of aging, as individuals and families seems to be enough of a challenge, without having to deal with behavior that was inappropriate in high school, much less in our living environment.
Dr. Bonifas estimates bullying occurs 10%-20% of elders in these facilities have experienced some form of bullying. That is an incredibly high number.
So, if you or your family is exploring assisted living or another type of senior residence, do not hesitate to explore this subject with the staff. The good facilities will recognize that it can exist and will have taken steps to deal with it. If you get a brush off — “Oh, goodness, that cannot happen here.” — either push harder or look elsewhere.
Best wishes, Bert