Bullying- A Societal Problem Across The Ages

allaboutestates, June 26, 2012:

June is recognized in Canada as both Senior’s Month and Elder Abuse Awareness month and how sad that this month concludes with headlines of a viral video on the bullying of an older person.
Like many of you, I watched in shock the video of the Ms. Klein being verbally threatened and abused by her charges- those rude young people with mouths as filthy as garbage cans. While I was sickened to hear the taunts and insults yelled at her, I was relieved and warmed by the outpouring of money and support that was raised (thanks to the quick thinking kindness of Max Sidorov) to send her on a holiday. As readers likely know by now, this fund has amazingly reached half of a million dollars. What does this really say? Well to me, it says a few things. Bullying is not age specific. Call this elder bullying or call it elder abuse- let’s understand what these differences may be.

There are several different definitions of “abuse of older adults” are used in Canada. The National Seniors Council on Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization use the following definition of elder abuse, developed by Action on Elder Abuse in the United Kingdom: “A single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”
The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly define elder abuse as: Elder abuse is harm done to an older person by someone in a special relationship to the older person.
Elder abuse includes:
• Physical abuse such as slapping, pushing, beating or forced confinement;
• Financial abuse such as stealing, fraud, extortion or misusing a power of attorney;
• Sexual abuse as sexual assault or any unwanted form of sexual activity;
• Neglect as failing to give an older person in your care food, medical attention, or other necessary care or abandoning an older person in your care; and
• Emotional abuse as in treating an older person like a child or humiliating, insulting, frightening, threatening or ignoring an older person.

The World Health Organization provides this definition of bullying:
“Bullying is a multifaceted form of mistreatment, mostly seen in schools and the workplace. It is characterized by the repeated exposure of one person to physical and/or emotional aggression including teasing, name calling, mockery, threats, harassment, taunting, hazing, social exclusion or rumors.”

I certainly see some similarities. Do bullies grow up to become abusers? Who knows but there appears to be some similarities and a common theme in betrayal of trust and in perceived dominance.
Have times changed so much? Have we forgotten to instill respect in our children- which apparently has to be taught? So much for treating others as you would like to be treated. How about respecting elders and those in a position of authority- who in my day as a young person would have included the bus driver/bus monitor/chaperone / crossing guard etc.?

We all have to assume responsibility as parents, as teachers and as bystanders. I can only hope that this glimpse into bullying by children towards others and this senior in particular, has sparked discussion in homes and in classrooms and in communities at large, for all of us to do better.
-Audrey Miller

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