- Deseret News - Friday, February 20, 2015

It’s not just schoolchildren and adults in the workforce getting bullied in today’s society.

Grandparents and the elderly, too, are getting their fair share of insults and negative comments.

There have been situations that have garnered national attention, like the bullying of a 68-year-old woman on a bus in Greece, New York. But a lot of it happens in assisted-living and nursing homes. The AARP said that between 10 and 20 percent of elderly people are mistreated in elder-care homes by peers.

It seems that the elderly tend to form cliques, and thus end up alienating other members of the older community in what some would liken to the “Mean Girls” effect.

Jessica D’Amico highlighted this in a piece for the News Transcript, explaining that the elderly tend to suffer from abuse and bullying during the twilight years of their lives. A lot of the time, this can even happen in elder-care homes, where groups form and push away those they don’t like, she wrote.

In other words, it’s a lot like high school.

“It’s typical of what you would see in a high school or middle school situation,” Caroline Berdzik, an attorney, told the News Transcript. “You see that movie ‘Mean Girls,’ and you have it taking place in these facilities.”

Other news institutions have hit on this topic, too. The Arizona Republic highlighted that bullying is a growing problem for the elderly, especially with how they create certain groups and keep each other out as a way of culling people they think best fit their ideal friends for their golden years.

The Republic also said that the elderly bully each other because of an overriding sense of insecurity. People become more vulnerable with age, and thus choose to release their emotions in some ways. In other words, they fear dying and take their actions out on each other.

Melanie Starns, who is a director of the Aging and Adult Services Division in Arizona, told the Republic her group hears about and sees a lot of bullying, but not much is done to prevent it. She also told the Republic that older people tend to bully each other because of how they perceive life as they age.

“When people become more frail, they feel more vulnerable,” Ms. Starns said. “Some people adjust, while other people develop difficult and destructive behaviors.”

But it’s going unnoticed. A 2014 article on Slate looked into workplace discrimination for the elderly, explaining how the working lives of some tend to take on a darker tone as they age because of the bullying that occurs.

And the reason it’s going unnoticed is because the elderly don’t want to get into more confrontations than they have to, so they stay quiet, according to the AARP.

“It’s very difficult for a lot of our seniors to step up and say something has happened,” said Mary Jones, director at Area Agency on Aging in West Palm Beach, Florida, to the AARP.

So what can be done to stop this situation?

Renee Garfinkel, a psychologist from Washington, D.C., told NBC News that it’s important for third-party members to get involved and try to relieve some of the issues that arise.

Elderly people are usually bullying out of fear, and not necessarily hatred, according to NBC News. So people should talk to them and resolve the issues in a kind way, Ms. Garfinkel said.

“If people see this, they should get involved,” Ms. Garfinkel told NBC News. “Go to the staff. Speak up the same way you would if you saw it at a bus stop. Sometimes, people aren’t sure what to do because the bully might be impaired, not functioning on all cylinders. But you need to get somebody to come and help.”

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