There aren’t a whole lot of problems that are as universal as bullying. It has been a recognized threat for many years and the issue only seems to escalate with time, even happening on a global scale thanks to the rise of the internet. However, while most people are familiar with the reality of this harmful behavior, few realize that it affects people other than children and teens.
Bullying can happen at workplaces or within the family, but what is especially concerning is that it is also quite prominent among the elderly. Occasionally, it is younger generations targeting seniors, but more often than not the situation involves elderly people bullying another in their group. Either way, the reality is dire and should be addressed properly. Only by calling attention to the issue can a solution be found, in the same way that raising awareness of cyber and schoolyard bullying can help in reducing the problem.
Who Are the Victims and Why?
Senior bullying happens in all sorts of older adult communities, such as nursing homes, retirement communities, or even during weekend events like bingo clubs. It can be described as repetitive verbal or physical attacks with the deliberate intent to cause harm to another person. In most cases, however, the aggressors will target people that they think they will be able to hurt without any repercussions.
Elderly people can become targets for a variety of reasons, such as being less fit than other members of the community, being slower either mentally or physically, or even for something as mundane as their sense of fashion. Regardless of the reason though, targets are characterized by their inability to defend themselves.
What Senior Bullying Looks Like
How You Can Stop Bullying
If You Are a Victim
While ignoring the bullies is a sound enough strategy to cope with the problem and may eventually lead to discouraging the aggressors, it is not necessarily the most effective way of dealing with the situation – especially if the issue turns physical. As long as it’s safe for you to do so, it is much better if you stand up for yourself as this will lessen the bully’s perception of you being weak and will bolster your self-confidence at the same time.
If the problem persists, you should report the behavior and continue to do so until the issue is resolved. In some situations, it may even be appropriate to acquire a restraining order. Having a safety net that will allow you to call for help if the situation escalates is important if the abuse is particularly sever.
A whistle could work, as would carrying a mobile phone, but it would be more effective to have an easier way to call for help without drawing immediate attention to what you’re doing and enabling the aggressor to prevent it. If you feel like you are in danger, a mobile medical alert system with GPS and two-way communication would work wonders and will allow you to feel more confident since help will always be at your fingertips.
If You Are a Witness
First and foremost, do not wait for the situation to resolve itself. Regardless of where the bullying happens, reporting the problem is vital. In nursing homes and retirement communities the staff should be made aware of a resident being targeted so that they can address the issue.
Luckily, a growing number of places have anti-bullying policies, so such behavior could have severe repercussions, even resulting in the abuser being expelled. Encourage the victim of bullying to develop a skillset that will help make them less of a target and refer them to a self-help group or training for communication skills where they can learn how to deal with the situation effectively. If you are a member of your own social group, make an effort to include others, especially new arrivals. Friends or family of the targeted person should show empathy and make sure that their loved one doesn’t feel worthless or ignored. Improve their self-esteem by tactfully reminding them of their strengths and achievements in life and show them with both words and actions that they aren’t alone.
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