Since I retired to Florida I’ve been shocked to see the level of antagonism portrayed by seniors who bully–especially when working as a group. The “social” bullying described in the recent article is truly bad, yet when loyal friends bully in concert together it is more akin to the Mafia than to even the worst playground behavior. The group dynamics of several people bullying together intensifies the effect, and can cause them to show more aggression when their bravado is bolstered by buddies.
We live in a wonderful place, but the coop’s “politics” could use some revamping, since there is a board-approved pattern of clear, intense, and repeated rejection of anyone who suggest changes. In this case, several owners are only wanting the coop to be run in compliance with the law! Our coop is managed by Board President who is acting as a Community Association Manager, but as he is unlicensed the State has ordered him to Cease & Desist, but with full support of many owners he continues this illegal practice.
There is great concern about looking the other way while a few seniors bully both younger and older residents who are part of the minority voice seeking change toward becoming legal. This involves yelling slurs, screaming at owners who express differing opinions, hate notes on residents’ doors and official bulletin boards, as well as making the laundry room into an unsafe place for these individuals.
Even the parking lot has been a background for bullying. Yelling epithets, standing behind cars trying to pull out, and one senior even biked circles in front of a gay couple trying to park their car in order to enter their home while several people watched and did nothing to help. One of the main bullies even told a dissenting former board member she’d “sure better sleep with one eye open”!
This pattern over several years has caused some to tiptoe around quietly, avoiding conflict or even taking abuse at times, while some others have decided to band together to work for change. According to public records, Broward county found our president guilty of claiming homestead in two states, and the State of Florida has sent the case about defying the Cease and Resist order to the General Counsel for possible criminal prosecution. (DPBR case # 20013032379). Other investigations are ongoing.
There is a vital need for programs to be developed to help with prevention and awareness of Senior Bullying. It is my hope as a teacher that the program also will include the possibility of criminal prosecution since some who bully are not concerned with the feelings of others. Some who bully don’t realize their loyalty to each other could become criminal. Perhaps a good training target for the prevention programs would be to work with the Boards in an effort to help them see the possible roles they might play in either discouraging such bullying, or by overlooking, enabling mistreatment of certain residents.
Such intimidation not only affects the emotions and health of those being bullied, but when the seniors doing the bullying have power over their victims as in condos or coops, it can destroy the feeling of being welcome and safe in your own home! Since a Board of Directors has the power to threaten residents with fines and can enter homes at will, their actions can bring life-changing fear which takes a heart-rending toll on the very lives of their victims. When Board members turn from advocates for the owners into adversaries, they can wield frightening control of large sums of money and the quality of lives of others.
I loved the place I live when I moved in, and I still love it, but how much better it could be if the bullying becomes a thing of the past. There has been some improvement but more is still needed in terms of transparency, etc. in order to make this a place where people feel safe to be themselves. Our goal is to live together as neighbors in peace.
My retirement has been a joy for me each and every day. I’ve had time to do things I value, like write, join interest groups, care for my disabled husband, spend more time with family, etc. It has been wonderful living near family in order to have support when I need help in health and other matters. The only thing I don’t really want is for me or anyone in my family or friends to be bullied. That doesn’t seem too much to ask of my retirement years.