“Mean Girls: The Nursing Home” might sound like the title of a bad parody or a Saturday Night Live sketch, but it turns out that bullying in nursing homes is very real. Elderly who rely on senior housing, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior centers might be at risk for bullying that extends to exclusion, gossip, and even fistfights. It is not unlike the kind of bullying that one must deal with at school in their younger years. USA Today reports on the efforts behind curbing this trend.
At the 30th Street Center, those who didn’t fit in were turned away from the cafeteria tables. Fistfights broke out at karaoke night. People gossiped and were cruel at dances.
All of the perpetrators and the victims were senior citizens, not high school teens as one might have thought.
The 30th Street Center teamed up with the Institute on Aging to help develop an anti-bullying program. Staff members attended 18 hours of classes to recognize bullying and to help resolve disputes. The seniors themselves were invited to attend classes, which were held in both English and Spanish, to help them recognize when their peers were being bullied.
Existing studies indicate that around 1 in 5 seniors encounters bullying. Most of this is likely born out of formerly independent people seeing their own control evaporate, and bullying can be a way to recapture some of that power for some.
Most senior bullying does not become physical. Instead, the perpetrators often resort to name calling and exclusion. Women are more likely to be bullied than men, thanks to longer lifespans and gender disparities in many nursing facilities.