An act stopping the bullying of residents in multi-family residences

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Sat, 11/24/2012 - 23:53
An act stopping the bullying of residents of multi-family residences, with attention to elders and persons living with disabilities residing in subsidized housing.

NOTE, January 2020. Many of the issues discussed in this article remain relevant today. For current information on progress, please see

and this update,

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Here is our position as stated in 2012.

To provide legal relief to those who have been harmed by bullying; to clarify the responsibilities of management (including landlords) to assure a safe and secure environment; to provide means of enforcement and other incentives for management to have and implement an appropriate policy with the goal of maintaining an environment free of bullying; to provide an ombudsman and other means for seeking a swift remedy; to provide incentives and standards for training and education of management, staff, and residents; to promote and support programs of research, intervention, training, and education to develop, evaluate, and promulgate effective methods and best practices in order to avoid and correct bullying.
The principle behind this act is that residents should be free of harassment/bullying (including by other residents, staff, or management) in their apartment buildings; and to provide remedies and prevention, in addition to relief and enforcement to protect residents.
The Commonwealth has an interest in protecting the well-being of citizens including those living in subsidized multi-family buildings and therefore should be expected to oversee and assure that public funds allocated to provide safe and secure housing (from federal, state, or local sources) are allocated to prevent injury resulting from bullying.

Bullying as a cause of injury and distress

Bullying of people in their residential environment has a negative impact on their quality of life, well-being, and both emotional and physical health.

Residents living in some subsidized housing buildings frequently are subject to abuse, harassment, and bullying by other residents and/or by staff but bullied residents have nowhere to turn for relief. Residents in these out-of-control buildings are constantly under siege from bullying. We have observed and experienced these problems, and received confirming reports from residents.

We have experienced and observed that bullying causes the targets to suffer from stress; the science on chronic stress is beyond the scope of this petition. (See section at end, "Notes on Stress.") However, chronic stress, including social stress and/or psychological stress, is known to be a factor contributing to serious health consequences including high-blood pressure, atherosclerosois (hardening of the arteries, buildup of plaque), heart disease and heart attack, stroke, and psychological problems including major depression, and possibly suicide. A researcher who has studied elderly persons in assisted living found that individuals who experienced higher levels of emotional distress related to bullying also had higher rates of depression and low self esteem. That study population is relatively physically, cognitively, and mentally impaired, compared to independent-living residents of subsidized housing. (Robin Bonifas, Ph.D., MSW, personal communication)

When a group or individual that uses bullying as a tactic takes over life in the public areas of the residence, everyone who is excluded from membership in the group dominated by bullying suffers. Residents lose the "peaceful enjoyment" of their tenancy. They are unable to freely choose their social companions and activities. They are unable to make use of all the common areas of the residence. They must live with rivalry, fear, and enforced isolation from activities and companionship.

Bullying can affect the whole tenor of life in a building, even including abuse of staff and volunteers, and leading to a negative reputation in the surrounding community. For example, staff in a housing program reported that volunteers are unwilling to work in a building where bullying is common. As we have observed, anyone who is "different" including people living with a mental health condition may be the targets of bullying. Or they may even be perceived as being bullies by other residents, as reported by Robin P. Bonifas, PhD, MSW. In assisted living settings, any resident who exhibits frightening or disturbing behavior characteristic of a mental health condition may be viewed as a “bully” by other facility residents. Recent work by Bonifas and her students strengthens those findings and begins to develop interventions appropriate for this setting, including guiding residents to develop and model constructive, supportive behavior.

The principle goals of this bill

1) to assure that residents should be free of bullying (including by other residents, staff, or management) in their apartment buildings; and to provide relief and enforcement to protect residents.

2) to enable an aggrieved resident to find easy access to effective enforcement; to make the management responsible for enforcing an evidence-based policy against bullying; to create and enforce training standards for management and staff; to inform, educate, and involve all residents; to support research to understand the sources of, and effective methods for avoiding and stopping bullying; and to create a consumer-oriented ombudsman with appropriate powers to investigate, intervene, and remedy.


"management"—including the owner, landlord, and management entity charged with the collection of rents, managing subsidies, and the day-to-day maintenance or supervision of the property.

"bullying"—all types of bullying and abuse, including social or psychological as well as physical abuse or harassment. Bullying is the inappropriate (because unsanctioned by law or consent) use of power. Robin Bonifas, PhD, MSW, and Marsha Frankel, LICSW are social workers who study bullying and seek to prevent it; they view bullying as aggressive behavior that is intentional, repeated, and involves an imbalance of power or strength. The person who uses bullying wants power and control. My Better Nursing Home, Senior Bullying Series: Guest Post[s] by Robin Bonifas, PhD, MSW, and Marsha Frankel,LICSW

"social bullying"—(also relational bullying, mobbing) consists of members of a group hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes: leaving someone out on purpose; telling other [people] not to be friends with someone; spreading rumors about someone; embarrassing someone in public. —

“Abuse"—attempting to cause or causing physical harm to another or placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm.—Mass GL Ch 258E

“Abusive conduct”—acts, omissions, or both, that a reasonable person would find hostile, based on the severity, nature, and frequency of the conduct, including, but not limited to: repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets; verbal or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating or humiliating nature; attempts to exploit a person’s known psychological or physical vulnerability. A single act normally shall not constitute abusive conduct, but an especially severe and egregious act may meet this standard. —Bill S9616 Section I CH 151F

“Harassment”— acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property and that does in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property.—Mass GL Ch 258E


"Chronic stress"— is the response of the brain to unpleasant events for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives [they have] no control. It involves an endocrine system response in which occurs a release of corticosteroids. This if [continued] for a long time can cause damage to an individual's physical and mental health. (See section at end, "Notes on Stress.")


Background on bullying in subsidized affordable housing

...bullying is a major problem, resulting in unnecessary suffering for older adults already facing the demands of aging. Marsha Frankel, LICSW. JF&CS Blog 6/9/2011

Subsidized housing for the residents is often financed by the federal government (HUD programs, Section 8) and/or the state and or municipality. The financing involves mortgages and other loans and benefits. The residents pay 30 percent of their income as rent. The balance of rent, based on a market rate, comes through a subsidy. The owner of the property is usually a national or regional corporation (often non-profit) owning many properties. Management of the properties is often delegated to a for-profit corporation which may be wholly owned by the landlord. The Section 8 subsidies from HUD are usually attached to the property; there are virtually no new personal and portable Section 8 vouchers available to residents, except sometimes "enhanced" vouchers to help residents when the property goes off the subsidy program (see below on affordable housing programs). Subsidized housing is scarce and the stock of such housing is diminishing as landlords prefer to convert to market rate rentals. Eligibility requirements are based on age, income, savings; younger persons living with a disability are also eligible.

Sources of bullying in multi-family housing

Some landlords and management are motivated to take care of the buildings but may not feel obligated to go further. Some managers do not provide an adequate framework for social life: there may be "house rules" but there may be no limits, rules and laws that motivate residents towards harmonious relationships. The HUD programs may not provide appropriate requirements, funding, incentives, or oversight to enable and ensure that management must maintain a safe and healthy social environment, the same as they are held to account for their paperwork and the condition of the physical plant. Such failures on the part of the HUD programs cannot excuse or justify the pain and suffering of elderly Massachusetts residents exposed to bullying behavior. Some managements do use a variety of methods to promote a positive living environment and they can be models on which to build. The purpose of this act is to begin a process that engages management in a constructive process, and to provide them with tools and resources. (See below for background on affordable housing)

A multi-family complex may contain a volatile mixture of people from vastly different backgrounds. Subsidized multi-family housing mixes residents who differ in age, ethnicity, education, language, and culture; all without creating a suitable framework for social relations and security. Elders range from those fully independent and with social support to those in need of extensive physical, social, and emotional support. Elders stepping in to care for adult children or grandchildren. Younger people with disabilities, including histories of violence, drugs, alcohol, and severe emotional problems are felt as a threat to security by many older residents.

Residents of subsidized housing may be insecure and searching to retain independence, autonomy, and a sense of control over their lives. Residents gather together in groups for mutual support, for protection against management; and to try to control their environment. The healthy drive to form social groups can be subverted by the use of bullying tactics. The support group then uses bullying to control members of their own group and to control and even to expel from the residence those individuals that are deemed to be non-compliant or "different." The support group then can manipulate management for better access to scarce resources, and in return provide management with the appearance of a peaceful, well-managed building. Thus management bullies sometimes collaborate with resident bullies.

Within a subsidized apartment building, bullying can take a number of forms:

  • Management/staff bullies resident(s)
  • One resident may bully others
  • A group of residents may bully one or more other residents.
  • Management may join with a resident group that uses bullying as a means of social control. In effect, management cedes control over social behavior in the building and may distribute scarce resources preferentially.
  • The group that uses bullying can stop other organized activity such as the creation of a legitimate tenants' association.
  • A group can do tremendous harm through social or relational bullying by excluding the target from activities (and by invitation-only events in common areas), by interfering with friendships, by spreading rumors, and by public embarrassment. A person who reaches out for help can be "punished" by social bullying, and this is very difficult to challenge or correct.


I went through two years of being bullied by a staff member in senior housing. He caused me to go to the hospital for 5 days, Management would not do a thing about him. He was a very nosey and nasty person. I moved and live in a better place now...—"Sharon" "Sharon" had been an advocate of taking strong measures against the management. Thus she was also bullied by residents who were allies of and defenders of management.

Two types of bullying

There are two classes of bullying, simple 1:1 bullying where one person bullies another; and social bullying, where the act of bullying serves to support and reinforce domination of the social life in the building by a clique or gang of people who use bullying as a means of social control. Present legal protections serve primarily to protect against simple 1:1 bullying. This act seeks to identify and provide a remedy for both types of bullying. When a gang or clique in the building uses bullying tactics they may:

  • seek to create a monopoly over social life in the building,
  • seek to gain preferential access to common areas and resources,
  • seek to deny some people the use of common areas and resources,
  • inhibit the formation of other social groups,
  • threaten people who oppose the bullies with further intimidation and even the fear of being driven out of the building.

Examples of social bullying

The clique of bullies is stationed at the "pinch point" where anyone entering or leaving the building must pass. They harass and intimidate their victims (and their guests) as they come and go. In addition to nasty talk and hand gestures, the leader releases his dog and urges it to attack the victim.

The clique led by bullies decides to have an invitation-only birthday party. They do not seek permission from management for use of the community room nor do they post any prior notice of the event, except that on the day of the event they post a "reserved for private use" sign on the door of the community room. Some people would be ejected if they wandered in to join the activities. According to the house rules, the common areas and all activities are open to all residents.

Leaders of the tenants'association were continually harassed and urged to quit the association. One such leader took great pride in managing a movie event on a weekly basis. She was threatened that if she did not quit the association, no one would be allowed to attend the movie event.

All residents are bound by lease to respect the "peaceable enjoyment of residency" of all others (and their lease also entitles them to the free use of all common areas), however management often does not enforce these obligation on people engaged in bullying. This act seeks to remedy these problems by providing an obligation for management to act, and the means to enforce.

Social bullying creates an environment of fear, tension, intimidation, and conflict. Members of the group that uses bullying may feel good about their social life. However, such bullying and the dominance of a clique deprives non-members of ordinary social connections and support, driving them into isolation. This act seeks to provide remedies by means of education and enforcement. In addition to stopping the bullying, this act seeks to promote research, education and interventions designed to develop a normal, healthy community life.

See the case studies by Jerry Halberstadt and other writers in References for specific examples.

The available legal remedies are insufficient

In our experience, the agencies and social service bodies tasked with looking into elder abuse are over-burdened and often their employees (as well as residents) are fearful of challenging politically-connected landlords and managers. When an outside professional has responded to requests for help by residents, staff have warned them off their territory. HUD offices defer to management. And no one holds management to account. An aggrieved resident who may seek an order of protection, is likely to face increased hostility and pressure from other residents and even from management. The targeted resident has no effective redress from a bad management. Residents are afraid to organize or to protest for fear of offending management and the perceived risk of losing their apartment.

See the case studies by Jerry Halberstadt and other writers in References for specific examples.

Bullying/harassing is prohibited by law (GL 258E). The aggrieved resident can document three or more instances and seek a restraining order. This is difficult to obtain unless there is serious physical injury—psychological abuse is harder to demonstrate. The law today seems to presume a single person who bullies, but in fact there may be a group of people who bully and a social group that is formed around leaders who bully.

If the person who is bullied seeks help by going to management, the police, the courts, or any outside agency, the complaining person is seen by other residents as betraying the group, and their reaction may lead to more bullying, shunning, and even violence. Even a restraining order against one person does not stop the social bullying, hostility, and ostracism by those who support the person who bullies or who mistrust authority.

If management seeks to deal with a person who bullies by going to housing court for eviction, they face a long and difficult struggle. There is already precedent for requiring peaceable behavior that is written into the lease. It is based on common law but very difficult to define and enforce in practice.

People living in subsidized housing are very unlikely to be able to afford legal counsel. The only free legal aid might be representation in housing court, and then only in a court hearing to argue against eviction. Thus a person who is bullied does not have access to all relevant legal protections.

Outside agencies including those charged with acting against elder abuse, either don't have the resources to intervene; intervene selectively in the most urgent situations; or defer to management.

Management may not recognize bullying; may not have an obligation to deal with it; may not know how to deal with it; may deny the existence of bullying in their buildings either to protect themselves or to preserve the reputation of their buildings.

Resident service coordinators can be a first line of defense, but they may not have support from management or the agencies for which they work; or there may be too few service proveders for the number of residents. Buildings with one full-time on-site service provider for ~100 residents, such as a resident service coordinator, seem to have fewer problems with bullying.

Self-help: The person being bullied is weaker than the person who bullies and is defenceless. Assertiveness, confronting or standing up to the person who uses bullying may be difficult or impossible. The victim needs help from a person or group that is legitimate and stronger than the person or group that uses bullying.

Mediation: having the person who bullies and the victim sit down together is futile because the victim remains under threat, either in the meeting or later.

Forming a support group for protection: it is difficult if not impossible for residents to organize a group that is independent of the bullies, either for the purpose of creating a tenants' association for promoting social and cultural events and to negotiate with management; or for protection against the bullies: the bullies are stronger and have no inhibitions about the tactics they employ. The ability to act independently of a bullying group is limited by fear and intimidation.

Barriers to management trying to protect tenants

If management tries to be responsible when persuasion or intervention does not work to stop a person who bullies persistently, their only recourse is to seek eviction in Housing Court. This is a difficult, year-long process. The law needs to reinforce the ability of management to control bullies by eviction when necessary, while protecting tenants from inappropriate retaliation by management.

Management has no financial or legal incentive to be proactive. In the absence of specific funding and oversight, it is understandable that some managements do not allocate resources and staff to quality of life issues such as bullying. There needs to be standards, policies, and effective oversight and enforcement.

Management may claim they are powerless to deal with a person who persists in bullying because "peaceable enjoyment" is so hard to enforce in the Housing Court. However, there is already precedent for requiring peaceable behavior. "Peaceable enjoyment" is written into the lease. Further, landlords who allow pets include pet policies/pet addendums in their leases. These policies/addendums contain language to the effect that a pet who behaves aggressively towards other tenant(s) and/or their guests is in violation of the pet policy—and are violating the victim's right to peaceful enjoyment. What we're asking for is that people should not be allowed to engage in behaviors pets are not allowed to do. It's settled case law (because it hinges on English common law) that landlords with a properly written pet policy that prohibits aggressive or noisy pet behavior and can ask the tenant who owns the pet to either get rid of it or to leave. We're asking that this apply to out-of-control people as well.

Goals of the proposed act

Our opinion, based on participant observation research, our experience, the reports of other elders and people with disabilities, and the experience of professionals in the social services, is that bullying can be significantly diminished by achieving the following steps:

  • Management is trained and proactive, has a clear evidence-based policy against bullying, and is held to account.
  • Sufficient trained staff on premises enough hours to be effective.
  • The community of residents, management, and all staff need to work together to inhibit and stop bullying and to develop and support peaceful relations among members of the community.
  • There needs be be an ombudsman function with appropriate powers to investigate, provide rapid relief, and to correct failures of the system.
  • There needs to be an ongoing educational campaign for the general public and specific educational and onsite training programs to reach all levels of management and staff, as well as residents.
  • There needs to be a peer support and information network, with appropriate training and access to professional support. This network should be able to operate independently, regardless of the sources of financial support either from the Commonwealth or operating as a non-profit with donations and grants.
  • The Commonwealth should provide an anti-bullying web resource, and support for demonstration projects, including those managed by a peer support network for education and intervention.
  • Require management to have an evidence-based policy on bullying. Thus to create a more enforceable standard than the "peaceful enjoyment" clause in leases, derived from English common law. This might enable landlords to more readily than at present to get help from the court in proceedings against a person or group who engage in bullying.
  • To enable aggrieved residents to seek enforcement remedies by the state by appeal to the courts; to hold management accountable for wrongdoing or negligence; to open the door to negligence suits by aggrieved residents.
  • To have standards for prevention and correction of bullying with oversight and enforcement by the state
  • Establish requirements and funding to support and enforce standards for staffing; and ensure training and education of facility owners; management and staff.
  • Support education for elders and people living with disabilities and for the public, and for professionals and other service personnel in contact with the residents.
  • Provide support for research, intervention, and evaluation programs; with significant participation by elders and people living with disabilities, alone or in collaboration with academics and professionals.
  • Management should have adequate trained people on the premises to deal with problems as the arise, and ideally to promote normal, healthy activities and interaction.
  • Management needs to be held to account for engaging in, supporting, or permitting bullying by staff or residents.
  • Management needs to have appropriate training in recognizing and dealing with bullying.
  • Residents need to know the limits of behavior and consequences. The policies we are advocating can help to introduce appropriate structure to the social life in multi-family residences.
  • Standards and enforcement by the state are essential, so that residents can appeal for effective relief.

A list of our issues and concerns

  • greater public awareness and education of bullying as a threat to health, respect, and dignity: what it is, how to stop it
  • residences and institutions must implement zero-tolerance anti-bullying policies and practices; owners, management, and staff must be accountable.
  • all people should be protected from bullying, so the law should be age-neutral, except where age-specific vulnerabilities, needs, or situations exist.
  • mandated qualifications and training for management and staff of institutions that serve elders and people living with disabilities; (senior centers, HUD housing, housing authorities)
  • supervision/oversight with penalties for inaction or malfeasance
  • a serious ombudsman function
  • innovative programs to provide qualified personnel to work on site, for example, using social work professionals to supervise student interns; outreach workers based in elder services or in senior centers, etc.
  • Keeping pets out of the fray: stop the use of pets to frighten or attack others, do not allow attacks on people by attacks on their pets.
  • Interventions to develop positive community life in residential settings. Peacable Communication & Conflict Resolution, using democratic or consensus principles
  • Enable people to act together to build healthy communities. This requires protection of civil and other rights of elders, for example, right to assemble: ability to organize a tenants' association free from attacks by management or bullies; ability of residents to invite speakers without being censored by management or owners, such as management seeking to impose their views.
  • Support for peer-based research, education, and to provide support for seniors and other vulnerable groups, and to work together with other advocacy groups and community institutions.
  • Encouragement and material support for agencies and established organizations whose mission includes helping elders and people living with disabilities as well as for peer support groups. Funding for research.

The importance of affordable housing for seniors

Affordable, subsidized rental housing is a highly regulated field with the goal of providing stability, hope and economic security to low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Financing comes from federal, state, and local sources and is achieved through a variety of methods including subsidies, tax incentives for private investors, and long-term, property-based rental subsidies. Federal funding from 1965 through 1990 was used to underwrite construction and operating costs; landlords agreed to provide affordable rental housing during the 40-year financing period.

In Massachusetts, most affordable housing was developed in the 1970s. These projects were primarily developed by private developers but financed through state and federal subsidy programs. As the HUD mortgage financing agreements have expired at the end of the 40-year term, this affordable housing has been "at risk." As the number of at risk buildings increases, some 85% of the current households are seniors or people living with disabilities. Some residents receive "enhanced section-8 vouchers" to help cover their rents in their current homes; others face displacement if they cannot afford the new, higher rents.

Elders living on the average Social Security payment in Massachusetts cannot make ends meet without subsidies for housing and healthcare. The population of individuals in Massachusetts over the age of 65 will increase by 37% between year 2000 and 2020 from 860,162 to 1,178,852 individuals (Mass Executive Office of Elder Affairs)

Currently (2008) in the US, there are at least 9 seniors waiting for every occupied unit of affordable elderly housing. One out of every five people age of 65+ in our state live beneath the poverty line and an estimated 50% of those individuals are homeless (HEARTH).

Roles of HUD, the landlord, and legislation for "expiring use" housing

Some landlords have taken up the challenge of affordable housing and have developed sustainable financial and business strategies to acquire and/or maintain expiring use buildings and to provide affordable housing. A number of non-profit landlords are represented by Stewards of Affordable Housing (SAHF). Their mission is: Affordable rental homes with services enable low-income seniors to age in place with dignity rather than face disruptive and costly institutionalization. Well-designed and operated housing also makes it possible for Americans with disabilities to enjoy a high level of independence. SAHF's members develop, acquire and own affordable multifamily rental homes with these beliefs in mind, and SAHF seeks to bring the full weight of its members' expertise, experience, and entrepreneurial spirit to bear on the task of taking not-for-profit housing preservation to scale. —SAHF

Expiring use legislation provides methods to preserve affordable housing.

HUD has been making changes in the interpretation of regulations to create/enable financial incentives and thus to facilitate new efforts to preserve affordable housing programs.—Bill Kelly, President SAHF, Affordable Housing Finance, April/May 2011

Note: Almost all current Section 8 is through landlords and their properties, there are almost no new vouchers available for individuals. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a type of Federal assistance provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dedicated to sponsoring subsidized housing for low-income families and individuals. It is more commonly known as Section 8, in reference to the portion of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 under which the original subsidy program was authorized. The United States Code (the compilation of current U.S. federal laws) covers this program in Title 42, Chapter 8, Section 1437f.

The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

References and resources


Mass GL Ch 258EA law that makes harassment and bullying illegal, and provides civil and criminal remedies.…

Mass GL Ch 265 (stalking)…

Mass GL Ch 71, Section 37O School bullying prohibited; bullying prevention plans Includes requirements for a bullying prevention and intervention plan to be included in an evidence-based curriculum; and requirements for intervention and action by staff and principals. And a requirement for the department of education to develop and publish resources and a model plan.…

"Stop bullying elderly people in HUD-subsidized housing: A petition for legislation, administrative rules, and oversight to correct the abuse" (directed to Federal legislation for HUD subsidized housing)

Professional publications and articles

Bonifas, Robin PhD, MSW and Kramer, Senior bullying in assisted living: residents' perspectives (Poster presentation) Kramer, C., James, M., & Bonifas, R. P. (October, 2012). Senior bullying in assisted living: Resident perspectives. Poster presentation at the 24th Annual Fall Symposium of the Arizona Geriatrics Society, Phoenix, Arizona.

Bonifas, Robin and Marsha Frankel, in: My Better Nursing Home, Senior Bullying Series: Guest Post[s] by Robin Bonifas, PhD, MSW, and Marsha Frankel, LICSW…

Frankel, Marsha Articles on social bullying in the JFCS blog, search on "bullying".

Span, Paula "Mean Girls in Assisted Living"…

Satolsky, Robert 1998 Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping New York: W H Freeman An examination of stress by a noted scientist.

Definition of social or relational bullying


Marsha Frankel, LICSW, Clinical Director of Senior Services at Jewish Family & Children's Service. Lecturer and trainer on Combating Social Bullying in Senior Housing and Assisted Living.

New England Resident Service Coordinators offer training on bullying, anger management and related topics for resident service coordinators and for management New England Resident Service Coordinators, Inc.…

Affordable housing

Sources for the overview of affordable housing include HUD, Mass Senior Action Council Expiring Use Handook 2008, Stewards of Affordable Housing, Preservation of Affordable Housing.

Observations, reports and advocacy by residents

Jerry Halberstadt, "Conflict and Bullying in a HUD-subsidized Building for Elderly Residents: A Case Study" 2011

Jerry Halberstadt, Conflict and Bullying in a Building for Elderly Residents: A Case Study, 2012, available on request from Jerry Halberstadt

Jerry Halberstadt, Elderly Crossings: life in subsidized elderly housing

Jerry Halberstadt, Elderly Crossings: Photographs of residents in elderly housing Elderly Crossings: a path to another country

Jerry Halberstadt, "Bonnie", "Mary"and othersBlog posts related to "stop bullying"

Articles on bullying

No Age Limit On Bullying The MetroWest Daily News: Framingham Housing Authority… Bonny's Comment: A very familiar story. Read the comments—they're interesting, too.

Senior Bullying in Lynn, MA…

Mean Old Girls… Bonny's Comment: Although this is about assisted living/nursing home bullying, it's cited all the time.

Comment on Mean Old Girls by a mental health person…

Bullying in a senior apartment in NJ (by the same blogger):…… Bonny's Comment: Edna's experience is similar to ours.

Here's a blog post asking teens to be aware that there are senior citizens who bully other seniors:

Bullying in Senior apartment in Atlanta: 87 year old bullies 71 year old…

Another blog post by someone familiar with managing a senior citizen building, about bullying:…

Here's a blog entry from a retired principal, on senior citizen bullying:… Another blog entry on senior bullying, written by a volunteer:…

Article on a Pioneer Valley (MA) roundtable about senior citizen bullying:… Bonny's Comment: about 2/3 of the way through the article, see this comment: "... when you don't speak-up, you are just as culpable as the bully."


Bonifas, Robin and Marsha Frankel, in: My Better Nursing Home, Senior Bullying Series: Guest Post[s] by Robin Bonifas, PhD, MSW, and Marsha Frankel, LICSW…

We (Bonny and Jerry) have reviewed and commented on the articles from the perspective of elders living in apartment residences where bullying is all too common. For our critique of the excellent, trailblazing articles by Bonifas and Frankel, focused on the difference of bullying in subsidized residences as contrasted with assisted living, please see

Notes on Stress

Robert M Sapolsky is a MacArthur Fellow and Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at Stanford University. In his book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, he interprets the scientific and medical literature on stress. Social and psychological stress, acute or chronic, can help to cause high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosois (hardening of the arteries, buildup of plaque), heart attack, stroke, and depression.

Sapolsky focuses on the relationship between chronic stress and major depression. Depression is a terrible combination of loss of pleasure, a disorder of thought that perceives that the world is full of bad things that can't be changed. [Major depression] is a genetic-neurochemical disorder requiring a strong environmental trigger whose characteristic manifestation is an inability to appreciate sunsets.(p. 230) He describes learned helplessness, the result of stressors that can't be controlled.

Even in good circumstances, aging is stressful and may involve the loss of control of many aspects of personal and social life. People living in elderly subsidized housing have very restricted income; may have failing health; a reduction in their social support and family networks; and very little control over their residential setting. Being subjected to an environment with bullying adds yet another stress which seemingly cannot be escaped or controlled. It seems plausible, if not proven, that bullying (an inappropriate method of gaining control and power) can contribute to chronic stress, which in turn can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological disease.

How to cite this document

An act to stop bullying of elders and people living with disabilities in subsidized apartments. Jerry Halberstadt and "Bonnie" for the "Stop Bullying Elders Committee"

This draft act is submitted by the "Stop Bullying Elders" committee, (Bonnie of Somerville, and Jerry Halberstadt of Peabody) for consideration in the 2013 session of the Mass. Legislature. Contact—Bonny and Jerry

For current information on progress, please see and this update,

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