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Senior citizens who bully

Clearly the people at msnbc are aware of the 70 year old lady who clocked me in the doctor's waiting room last week.  I'm still heated about that.

Sorry about the crazy font issues in the C&P


 When Nancy Murphy moved into a retirement community near Portland, Ore., she didn?t realize she?d actually traveled back in time.

?I came into breakfast one morning and this woman sitting at a nearby table sees me and says, ?Well, would you look at the new girl? She has WET HAIR!?? says Murphy, a 75-year-old retired schoolteacher. ?She did this three mornings in a row. Then I found a flyer in my mailbox with a copy of the house dress rules. I know she tucked it in there.?

Murphy, who?s lived at the facility just under two months, says she ignores the woman?s jabs ? ?I refer to her as Harriet High School? ? but others at the nursing home have confided they?re afraid of her.

?I had dinner with two gentlemen the other night and they said she terrifies them,? she says. ?That she?s dictatorial, demanding, critical ? classic bully behavior.?

While much scrutiny and study has been devoted to bullying in grade school and high school these last few years, less attention has been paid to another category of bullies: those with gray hair, false teeth, hearing aids and canes. But according to experts, gray-haired bullies do exist and, as with their younger counterparts, their behavior can run the gamut from verbal intimidation to physical violence.

?It?s kind of an institutional thing,? says gerontology expert Robin Bonifas, an assistant professor at Arizona State University School of Social Work, who?s currently researching senior-to-senior bullying. ?It tends to take place in senior centers or nursing homes or assisted living facilities, places where they?re spending a lot of time and need to share resources, whether it?s chairs or tables or TV stations or staff attention.?

Mary Noriega, a 64-year-old from Phoenix, says she has had run-ins with a group of ?means girls? at the senior complex where she and her husband moved a year and a half ago.

?I?ve endured a lot of bullying,? she says. ?There?s a clique here of probably 20 women and they feel they control the property. I?m their kicking stone.?

Noriega says the women in the group gossip about her (?One piece of gossip that went around was that we?d been evicted from our last apartment,? she says); spread lies about her; discourage other residents from befriending her and give her dirty looks whenever she tries to use community facilities, like the rec room.

?No one should have to deal with the harassment I?ve endured,? she says. ?The first six months I lived here, I used to sit in my apartment and just cry. I?ve never dealt with anybody like this before.?

These days, Noriega is gathering evidence (?I?ve got a briefcase crammed full of information about the harassment I?ve endured?) and is turning to outside agencies like the local city council and ASU's School of Social Work in order to get help for her ? and other residents ? with the bullying problem.

Age-old problem
This kind of problem is nothing new to Gina Kaurich, an executive director at FirstLight HomeCare, who previously worked as a director of nursing at an assisted living facility outside of Dayton, Ohio, for several years.

?There is, in some regard, a caste system among residents,? Kaurich says. ?There would be an elitist type of table in the dining room where you had people who could eat and drink and carry on conversations very well together. And if an individual who had trouble eating tried to sit with them, they would ignore them or say, ?Why do you always seem to drop your fork?? They?d speak meanly to them. It was like high school.?

Kaurich says even fun activities like singing weren?t immune from bully behavior.

?In the recreation room, if somebody didn?t participate the way somebody else thought they should, you?d see them get into that person?s face,? she says. ?They?d be literally shaking their finger and saying, ?How dare you call out Bingo when you don?t have a Bingo!? or ?How dare you sing that hymn that way!? Even if the person was in a wheelchair, they?d be looking down at them, shaking their finger in their face.?

Doris Lor, a 76-year-old retired secretary, told the Arizona Republic that when she moved to an age-restricted retirement community in Chandler, Ariz., her new neighbors yelled at her whenever she walked into the recreation center and refused to let her sit at the club?s card tables or community pool.

The bullies were part of a ?clique ? that is meaner than mean,? she says.

Estimated 10 to 20 percent of seniors bullied
There's little published research on elderly bullying, but Bonifas estimates about 10 to 20 percent of seniors have experienced some type of senior-to-senior aggression in an institutional setting, much of it verbal abuse.

Both men and women can bully, she says, but women tend towards passive-aggressive behavior like gossiping and whispering about people when they enter a room while men are more ?in your face?.

?With men, it?s more negative comments directly to the person,? she says ?With women, it?s more behind your back.?

But it doesn?t always stop at back-biting and bickering. Seniors have also been the victims of violence, she says, sometimes over something as trivial as a coveted spot at the dinner table.

?At one facility where I worked, there wasn?t assigned seating so residents would tend to claim ownership at certain tables,? she says. ?And one time, a woman was sitting at a table having a cup of coffee and another resident came in and saw her seated at ?his? table and started yelling at her. She yelled back. And then he hit her ? with his fist.?

According to Bonifas, incidents like these are all part of a pattern of behavior.

Dementia and violence
?There?s kind of a continuum to this aggressive behavior,? she says. ?Bullying would be on the lower end of the spectrum and at the higher end, you?ll have actual incidents of violence between seniors. They could be hitting each other, kicking each other; there have actually been deaths.?

One such death, in which a male resident of an Indiana nursing home killed a female resident by lifting her up and slamming her into a wall causing a cerebral contusion, was detailed in a 2001 report prepared by the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the report, the man had a ?long history of ? explosive physical and verbal aggression towards residents and staff.?

In some cases, dementia is responsible for the violence, says Bonifas, causing residents to ?perceive things as threatening when they?re not really threatening ? so they resort to a more primitive response.?.

Debbie Campbell, 54, says this is exactly what happened to her mom when she stayed at a nursing home several years ago.

?My mom had heart surgery and needed to be in a rehab/nursing home setting for a few weeks and we got her a semi-private room with just one other little old lady,? says Campbell, who owns a creative design firm in Seattle. ?The first few nights, Mom would wake up and her roommate would be standing over her staring at her and muttering. But near the end of the first week, she woke up to the woman pounding on her with an umbrella screaming that she was a spy from her family and to ?Get out!? So we did.?

Other times, it?s the people with dementia who are picked on, says Kaurich ? a situation that can lead to some interesting reversals.

?We had a woman who picked on others ? she would berate people for dropping food on their clothes or dropping their fork ? and then she began to exhibit signs of dementia,? she says. ?She started to forget where she was supposed to sit or eat. And the others in that particular group began to pick on her. It seemed to me, it was almost out of fear that something like that was going to happen to them.?

Causes and strategies
Fear can be one reason for bullying, says Renee Garfinkel, a Washington, D.C.-based psychologist who specializes in aging issues, but it?s also ?that human phenomenon of the strong picking on the weak. It?s not a function of aging. It?s a function of pathology.?

There?s also a tendency for people to become more and more uniquely themselves as they age, she says.

?Chances are, if you were kind of a nasty, selfish person throughout your adulthood, you?re probably not going to be the benign grandma type when you?re old,? she says.

How do you stop a senior bully in their tracks?

Garfinkel says just as with bullying anywhere, the best way to prevent it is intervention.

?Third party bystanders are part of the problem,? she says. ?If people see this, they should get involved. 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.?

But she also points out that just because people are cranky, it doesn?t necessarily mean they?re a bully.

?People in nursing homes often have painful conditions that wear them out and make them uncomfortable all the time,? she says. ?A backache or toothache doesn?t promote the milk of human kindness. And if you?ve ever spent time in a nursing home, it?s hard to be with a lot of the people who are there.?

Re: Senior citizens who bully


    my grandparents lived in one of the retirement communities around here and they lived in the "nicest" building (where the former governor lives etc).  Everyone in their building is a retired doctor, businessman, lawyer, etc. My grandparents - not so much. they wouldn't eat at the dining room in their building because they had to dress too fancy to fit in.  People didn't talk to them in their building (of course that could be because my grandmother is crazy.)

    I had a friend who waited tables at this same retirement community and one time saw a group of women make another woman (sitting by herself) get up and move because she was at "their table."  I can't imagine anything so sad as being all alone in a place like that and not even being able to sit where I want to eat my dinner by myself.  People move into this place relatively young  - in their 60s - and they aren't all suffering from dementia.  It's definitely a high school mentality all over again. It's sad.

    Also, my grandmother (who was always crazy like I said but also now has dementia) definitely grew more violent.  She and my grandfather have been married for almost 68 years, and we finally had to separate them this fall because she had to have an aide with her at all times to keep her from beating my grandfather with the umbrella or cane - and the aide cost 100/hour. So putting her in a nursing home was cheaper by far and protects my grandfather.

    Lilypie First Birthday tickers
  • So people truly do never grow up. I suspected as much when I got out of high school and went to college and still dealt with clique-ish BS, and then when I got out of college and discovered coworkers made me just as crazy as classmates. So now we can all look forward to worrying about being in the in-crowd in the nursing home too. Great.
  • I learned about cliques in retirement homes from my grandmother's experience. It doesn't surprise me. Whatever negative qualities people exhibit when they are young tend to emerge as they age. Add in the knowledge that you are in the final stage of your life, the loss of your home and way of life prior to moving to the facility, the likely reduction in contact with family and friends, possible health ailments, etc., and you have a perfect storm for bad behavior.
  • I grew up in Ft Laud/ Boca area.  It is absolutely no news to me that those old folks can be mean.  Even as a child, I was literally pushed aside so that someone else could be in line first.  I've ended up on my ass in Costco a few times, after someone rammed a cart into me, of course not apologizing.  Costco is the worst (even though it's my favorite store, as long as it's not in S FL)
  • Sibil, I was in Costco the other day and spent the entire time hating the incessantly rude fogies who were in there. Once again, it's the sense of entitlement.
  • Really, I love my Costco trips, so long as they don't occur in S FL.  It was usually fine in CO or TN or any other place I've been (my parents are in culture shock whenever they visit a CO Costco to stock up for skiing as they're only used to S FL).

    I will say, though, it's kind of a trip to go to my Korean 2 story Costco.  No fogies, but not a whole lot of politeness, either.  However, the employees overseas are awesome.  We've been to 3 Korean and 1 Japanese store, and customer service speaks awesome English and is incredibly helpful.  

  • Well, I'm going to hell with gasoline draws', but I was reading this thinking "Why don't they just trip the old bat up so that she falls and breaks a hip or some shiznit? That'll teach her."
    image "There's a very simple test to see if something is racist. Just go to a heavily populated black area, and do the thing that you think isn't racist, and see if you live through it." ~ Reeve on the Clearly Racist Re-Nig Bumper Sticker and its Creator.
  • image majorwife:
    I want to know more about the granny that punched cee-jay

    Yeah! WTF was that about?

    Team Basement Cat image Knitting&Kitties
  • image majorwife:
    I want to know more about the granny that punched cee-jay

    I dug up the post from IN:


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