Mean Girls Prowl Senior Communities

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He said he has not heard of incidences of targeted social ostracism and it would be difficult to collect data about verbal abuse from residents. Part of the challenge is that the Administration of Aging simply collects reports from every state, which may categorize each complaint differently.

Carmelita Karhoff, long-term care ombudsman of the Triangle J Area Agency on Aging in North Carolina, said she also had not heard of reports of bullying, though she encourages residents and families to inform their local or state ombudsman if they do have issues.

And in some states, cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation should go to the Department of Social Services' adult protective services.

Ken Budd, executive editor of AARP, The Magazine, said he had not heard of "bullying" in retirement communities, but is certain it exists.

"People usually become bullies to hide their own inadequacies and fears, whether they're 18 or 80," Budd said. "So bullies can surface in any group setting, not just retirement communities."

Budd advises that elderly residents may act irrationally because of issues including dementia.

"People who are losing their independence or dealing with health issues may lash out at neighbors," he said.

Budd offered another piece of advise for dealing with bullies: "If you can't defuse a toxic personality, the best strategy is often to graciously distance yourself from that person."

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