Bullying is not a new topic; children have been bullying one another for decades. What I have found recently is that bullying can be a problem for those of all ages. Adult bullying does often look like the bullying you see on a playground, it just takes place in senior housing, church, senior centers or even at the place of employment.
Bullying is a distinct pattern of deliberately harming or humiliating others, usually involving an imbalance of power. With seniors, the bullying is usually not physical but insults, isolation and demeaning the other person. Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me, is a nursery rhyme we have all heard, but words can hurt. Calling people insulting and derogatory names is a major weapon of a bully. Name-calling seeks to separate the victim and make those around them see them in a negative light. It also serves to make the victim feel bad about who they are. Continued insults and put downs can affect how a person sees themselves; it can also influence how those around them see them. The insults could be based on real or perceived difference but the outcome is the same.
Isolating a victim is also a common bullying tactic. “Saving seats” for friends seems like an innocent act, but if the purpose is to exclude people from sitting at “your” table then it is bullying. I have had clients tell me stories of trying to sit in a pew or at a table and people told them they could not sit there it was reserved for Friend X. This was repeated at several seats; soon the person just gave up and no longer goes there. They felt isolated and excluded, which they were.
Acts of bullying can include:
• Destroying property
• Physical violence
So what can be done to eliminate senior bullying? First, of all if you see someone being bullied, speak up, we all know right from wrong so if it feels wrong it probably is. Speak to someone in charge and make him or her aware of the situation, they cannot fix a problem they do not know is there. Finally, be kind. If you see someone being mistreated you can always be the person that invites them to sit by you. Be the person they can turn to. As the saying goes, treat others, as you would like to be treated. That applies at every age.