Bullying: It Doesn't End on the Childhood Playground

By Countouris, Pamela E. | Aging Today, September/October 2018 | Go to article overview

Bullying: It Doesn't End on the Childhood Playground


Countouris, Pamela E., Aging Today


Edna is a retirement community resident. She and a group of women would sit together every day for meals. One day, a food server found Edna crying in the hallway. When asked why she was crying, Edna replied, "They said I can't sit at their table anymore."

The food server then asked the five women sitting at the table if this were true. The group leader said, "Yes, she gets on my nerves and I told her she is not welcome to sit here anymore."

When the food server asked the remainder of the group why they agreed to this, one of the women stated: "She (the leader) has a car and she drives us to Walmart." The food server thought to herself, "This is worse than the high school cafeteria."

Bullying Among Elders: Back to the Schoolyard?

The Hazeldon Foundation defines bullying as an intentional and repetitive aggressive behavior involving an imbalance of power or strength (tinyurl.com/aogjvSk).

It has been recognized for years as a problem among school children, but recently, bullying among older adults in residential communities, assisted living facilities, senior centers and senior daycare centers is of growing concern. Research indicates that between 10 percent and 20 percent of residents in these communities have experienced some form of bullying from their peers (tinyurl.com/ycob29cd), which directly correlates with the school-age statistics.

Bullying behavior manifests in different forms, ranging from verbal intimidation to the extreme of physical violence. The most common form of bullying in these facilities is social in nature and includes rumormongering and gossiping, excluding and ignoring others and using negative body language and verbal intimidation. Women and men both are likely to be targets and aggressors, but in the senior-living environment, more women are involved in bullying behavior than men.

The opposite is true in the school-age environment. Boys bully more than girls because they target both girls and boys, but girls mainly target other girls. Women bully more than men in senior-living facilities simply because there are more women living in such facilities than there are men - it's a matter of numbers. …

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Bullying: It Doesn't End on the Childhood Playground
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