Seniors Learn Painful Truth About Bullying

It's not usually physical, but it's nasty
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2018 4:05 PM CDT
Seniors Learn Unpleasant Truth About Bullying
In this Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 file photo, Marsha Wetzel sits for a portrait in her room at Glen Saint Andrew Living Community in Niles, Ill.   (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Bullying doesn't end as we enter our golden years, apparently. The AP has uncovered incidents of cruelty at senior centers and housing complexes that highlight the surprising ways elderly people bully one another. "There's the clique system just like everywhere else," says Betsy Gran, who once ran a senior center in San Francisco. "It's like Mean Girls, but everyone is 80." Examples? One woman at a senior high-rise considers herself ruler of the parking garage and keys the cars of her enemies. Elsewhere, there are laundry rooms where detergent is stolen or clothing is tossed on the ground. And forget about Bingo rooms—new arrivals who happen to win may end up tormented by angry veterans.

Some senior facilities are hosting anti-bullying programs, which at least teach people about the problem. Most senior bullying is about exclusion, rumors, and name-calling rather than physical violence, one expert says, and is perpetrated mainly by women—which highlights the changes in gender disparity as we age. Some seniors apparently bully others to overcome a feeling of lost control that comes with age. But that's little consolation to Marsha Wetzel of Niles, Illinois, who sued a senior apartment complex after she was bullied for being lesbian, the Chicago Tribune reports. "I'd just go in my room and barricade my door and just pray," says Wetzel, now 70. "I just felt like a slug, like I was nothing, like I wasn't even human." (More bullying stories.)

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