First of all, a huge thank you to Harold Riley, host of Our Stories, Our Lives, on our local, Lake County radio station, KPFZ 88.1 FM. His broadcast yesterday brought me back to a topic I’ve been concerned with in the past, but not enough in the present.
The topic is a form of elder abuse–senior bullying–by other seniors and also by care providers. A recent Associated Press article, ‘It’s like ‘Mean Girls,’ but everyone is 80′: How nursing homes deal with bullies (Matt Sedensky, May 12, 2018), speaks to the problem in nursing homes, senior centers, and senior housing. The last portion of the article recounted the plight of a woman who was bullied relentlessly by her neighbors for being a lesbian, once she moved into a senior housing complex in Illinois.
Senior on senior bullying is just one form of abuse that elders, especially older LGBTQIA people, endure. Years ago, when I was taking some case management and gerontology classes at Berkeley City College, I began to learn how some in-home health workers and other social service providers were bullying clients who were LGBTQIA or who had different sexual lifestyles (kinky, poly, etc.). The heartbreaking documentary, Gen Silent, shows how tragic and frightening this is. The website has a “free viewing pop-up” every so often, so it’s worth signing up for this so you can see the film.
Sage–Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders–published this article in Feb., 2018. Here is an excerpt from that article:
<<Regarding much-needed support in postretirement years, the resource center notes the following: Although 80 percent of long-term care in the U.S. is provided by family members, LGBT elders are twice as likely to be single and three to four times more likely to be without children than their heterosexual counterparts. Further, many professional caregivers are not accepting of LGBT elders and not trained to deal properly with their unique needs. Therefore, such caregivers might be hostile, discriminatory, or simply unaware that LGBT elders exist. For example, 8.3 percent of LGBT elders reported being neglected or abused by a caretaker due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.>>
Back in 2010, I wrote a column for Carnal Nation called Kink at the Old Folks Home which considered this topic from the standpoint of consensual kink among elders, and what can happen when care providers or social service providers are not adequately informed and trained to deal with alternative sexualities and genders. From my column:
<<…Clay Greene (age 88) and Harold Scull (age 77) [this link added 5/17/18] is a recent example of heavy handed intervention. When Harold Scull became injured, an avalanche of official interventions quickly buried both men, destroying what remained of their life together. Sonoma County officials portrayed Greene as Scull’s “roommate,” ignored the men’s mutual powers of attorney, and put both men into nursing homes, separate ones, and even though Greene was healthy! They also sold the men’s home and belongings, and even got rid of their pets without their permission. Authorities refused to let Greene visit Scull, even as Scull was dying. Greene sued the county with help from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and recently won his case.>>
What can you do?
Speak up! Don’t stand by and allow bullies to have their way! Here are some resources to help you understand the issue and what you can do about it.
The National Center for Assisted Living has a PDF booklet called Bullying Among Seniors to help assisted living providers to prevent and address this problem.
The University of Southern California has a Bullying Prevention Resource Guide which includes several resources specific to LGBTQIA communities and to seniors. (Scroll down.)
Today, May 17th, is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Let’s celebrate it in style by preventing bullying every day of the year.