A recent report produced by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health highlights the nature of drinking amongst older adults. The research explores the range of factors that affect drinking in later life and suggests new ways of addressing harmful alcohol use amongst older people. Key findings include:
Moderate drinking amongst retired people can contribute to their engagement with ‘active’ and ‘healthy’ ageing. For this reason, alcohol need not be viewed simply as a hurdle to health and wellbeing.
Retirement is one of many events in a person’s life that can bring a change of routine, including routines and practices around alcohol. Processes and circumstances associated with ageing and retiring can present sudden broken routines that can be problematic in terms of periods of increased risk of social isolation and/or increased alcohol consumption, particularly for previous heavy drinkers.
Broken routines can be associated with retirement but also things like taking on a caring role, bereavement and loss of social networks.
The public health message that ageing brings increased risks associated with alcohol was being received by those in the sample and the report emphasizes that healthy ageing policies can learn from the active contribution older people make in creating healthy routines, in identifying for themselves the risks associated with the life-stage in relation to alcohol and help support these adaptations.
The report concludes that services should ensure the issue of older people’s drinking is not missed. Because the participants in the sample were not ‘addiction’ clients they would need to receive advice from other sources. However, the authors state, the needs of older people, particularly around ensuring social connections and interaction, are no different from adults more generally and care should be taken not to ‘ghettoise’ messages and services.