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Older Adults Can Be Bullies, Too

Seniors in nursing homes, assisted living facilities face peer pressure from other seniors

Today we often read about cyberbullies among young people, but bullying also plagues senior centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Between 10 and 20 percent of residents in senior care homes are mistreated by peers, says Robin Bonifas, an Arizona State University gerontology expert.

See also: Caregiving Resource Center.

Senior man yelling at senior woman, Older adults can be bullies too

Seniors are bullying other seniors in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. — Photo by Corbis Bridge/Alamy

Nationwide, that translates to hundreds of thousands of people who endure abuse. Many incidents of name-calling, bossy behavior, loud arguments and, at its most extreme, physical violence go unreported.

"It's very difficult for a lot of our seniors to step up and say something has happened," says Mary Jones, director of elder rights at the Area Agency on Aging in West Palm Beach, Fla.  Some facilities adopt practices that aim to preempt aggressive behavior.

If you're sizing up a place, experts recommend asking whether it follows these practices: Residents are required to sign a code of conduct to treat peers with consideration and respect; resident "ambassadors" help newcomers transition into the community; staff members coach residents on how to handle snubs and aggression; staff members encourage bystanders to act in positive ways when they observe bullying, being respectful of possible physical or cognitive impairment; and offenders receive a written reprimand or, in the case of multiple complaints, stronger penalties.

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