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Alcohol Abuse a Growing Problem Among the Aged

Posted in Alcoholism

Alcohol Abuse a Growing Problem Among the AgedHeavy drinking is thought to be a youthful problem that one grows out of. But after many adult responsibilities pass and people are struggling with aging, including loneliness and isolation, an alcohol addiction can fill that hole.

Britain’s Office for National Statistics outlined just how serious the problem of alcohol abuse among the aged has become. According to the report, more people 75 years and older are dying from alcohol-related causes today than at any time since the country began keeping track. And the spike in these alcohol-connected deaths among the elderly are coming at a time when these deaths are declining in every other age group.

This is not just a U.K. problem. The National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse estimates that 10 percent of America’s eight million alcoholics are 60 or older. That means around 80,000 seniors in this country are abusing alcohol. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. reports that abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs by those 60 years and older is one of the nation’s fastest growing health concerns.

We might be tempted to say that this is just another thing linked to an aging baby boomer generation. While it is very true that there will soon be more senior citizens than ever before, the U.K. report was based on research that calculated the number of alcohol related deaths per 100,000 and compared that to previous records. In other words, this isn’t merely an issue of there being more elderly people in our countries.

Aging means going from being a parent to an empty nest, from being a married person to being a widower. from being a career worker to being retired. Aging has nearly always meant more limitations and increasing physical discomfort.

But what the British study suggests is that loneliness and isolation doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. Regular telephone calls, text messages and visits from children can soften the pain of loneliness.

And social groups can also play a role. Whether it is involvement in a church group, a weekly bridge club or some form of civic participation, the important thing is that seniors continue to feel connected.

Much has been written about the garage door culture, where neighbors know little about one another apart from what they see when the garage door goes up or down. Isolation is a problem at every age, but when people reach their later years there is little left to buffer its sting.