Mean Girls at the Senior Center A New Frontier for Bullies

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by Mary Beth Sammons

I had thought I had heard it all about the war on the frontlines of senior care. But, what makes life so exciting is that just when you think you’vecaregiving, mean girls, elderly assistance got it down, you are suddenly surprised by humans and their unpredictable nature.

In order to understand this story, I suggest all of you step into your time capsules and remember a day on the kindergarten playground when a bully refused to let the shy little girl play jump rope.  Remember how you had the icky feeling in your stomach? Or think high school cafeteria, when the “popular girls,” were snickering and making fun of someone, and how yucky you felt as observe, or especially if that someone was you?

Now, flash forward and try to imagine yourself in your mid-80s. Your husband and companion for the last 55 years recently passed; one of your life’s sorrows was that you never gave birth to the children you always wanted, and now alone, you live in a community for other seniors, mostly other widows, and you are reinventing all over again - alone. But, you feel like you have begun connecting because you have come to know some other widows and were invited to play Bingo on Wednesday nights. Sitting at a table of six women you feel is community, sadly one of the only communities that tether you to others at this stage of your life.  For a few hours on a Wednesday night, you feel like you belong to something, that you are not all alone.

That’s the story of Gloria, a woman who lives four doors down from my mother at the Catholic senior living center. Only, last week, the other five widows at the Bingo table held a clandestine meeting after the 9 p.m. Bingo game. Their decision: Gloria is out. They are going to tell her she can no longer sit at their table. Apparently, they don’t like Gloria. The reason: They think she cheers too loud at Bingo and they don’t want her at their table.

My mom, who doesn’t play Bingo, but gets the latest scoop on Bingo night from her next door neighbor every Thursday morning, was enraged, when she called to tell me.  “Mary, I have something really sad to tell you that is happening here,” was how she started her phone call. My gut reaction was that yet another neighbor had died. But I was stunned by what she told me about this Gloria Bingo incident. A group of 80-something women were going to tell their neighbor that she could no longer sit at their Bingo table.  “How could they,” my mom asked.  “I am going to do something about this, “she said. “Mary, I need you to help me figure out what I can do so Gloria’s feelings don’t get hurt.”  (Stay tuned for part two.)

What do you think? What would you do as daughter/caregiver if you heard this story? I would love to hear your feedback if you will leave a message here.

----Mary Beth Sammons

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