There’s an epidemic going on in Senior Centers, Assisted Living Homes, Independent Living Homes, Nursing Homes and maybe in your own home that no one seems to be talking about. It’s called Mean Girls. Old Mean Girls. Don’t think that just because you were bullied in High School or at work that when you became a senior citizen all that abuse ended. Those mean old ladies are just getting started. Now, you’re older and weaker and more fragile than ever. Just the perfect victim Old Mean Girls feed on.
According to this 2015 article in the NY Times (click here) Mean Girls isn’t a new phenomenon. Instead of getting better, it’s getting worse. Fellow nursing home residents will use their canes or their walkers to trip you up and make you fall (hoping you’ll break a hip or a leg). They’ll exclude you from joining in any games or social events. There’s another name for Old Mean Girls. It’s called ‘bullying’. Because the elderly suffer from cognitive impairment and dementia, the person doing the bullying might not even realize that they’re doing it. By dominating others in their old age, it gives them a sense of importance. This is very dangerous to other senior citizens.
So, what can you do if you’re faced with your own bullying in your retirement years? Existing studies show that 1 in 5 Senior Citizens will be subjected to bullying. Thankfully campaigns are being set up around the country to spread the word. According to this 2018 USA Today article (click here) programs offering training and policies aimed at curbing the spates of bullying are finally being introduced and implemented at many senior centers.
“People usually become bullies to hide their own inadequacies and fears, whether they’re 18 or 80.” Elderly residents may act irrationally because of issues including dementia. People who are losing their independence or dealing with health issues may lash out at other seniors. “If you can’t defuse a toxic personality, the best strategy is often to graciously distance yourself from that person.”
The idea of 90-year-olds in pecking orders, picking on those at the bottom, was a joke, right? Everyone knew that the real danger to the elderly came from unscrupulous relatives, con artists or abusive caregivers. We’ve all heard sad tales of senior citizens being beaten, starved or neglected by the people paid — usually underpaid — to care for them.
The notion that a threat to seniors is their peers is somewhat new, and usually played for laughs. It goes against a truism handed down from mothers to daughters for generations: This, too, shall pass. Mean girls are not girls, or mean, forever. High school doesn’t last forever, everyone grows up. But the elderly’s current experience suggests otherwise. It says that the cruel, like the poor, are always with us, that mean girls stay mean — they just start wearing support hose and dentures.
What should you do if you unfortunately encounter a Mean Girl or a bully? The best thing to do is to alert management and/or the authorities. The next best thing to do is not engage. As stated, “graciously distance yourself from that person.” Many of these older bullies are suffering from elder age ailments such as dementia, cognitive impairment and are oftentimes delusional. As these people age it becomes harder and harder for them to accept their own reality. They may suffer from a brain disease and unfortunately may not be able to control themselves. For more information, click here.