Ageing with Alcohol
Our population is ageing. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts the number of people aged 85 and above is expected to double in the next 20 years and double again in the future.
Yet while much has been written in relation to alcohol use and misuse by young people, there is less of an interest in alcohol use at the other end of the life span.
Although older people are not as visible in their consumption of alcohol, research indicates that they are actually more likely than young people to consume alcohol daily.
Older people share many of the same rituals and reasons for drinking as younger Australians, but they’re also more likely to turn to alcohol due to loneliness or boredom.
By understanding the risks and potential reasons that cause older people to drink, local sporting clubs can play their role in helping to reduce harm to older members and guests in their communities.
Are there greater risks for older people who drink?
Naturally, as we age our bodies change and change occurs in individual cells and in whole organs. Our metabolism slows and our tolerance to alcohol lessens, so this may mean alcohol has a more potent effect on an older person compared to a younger person consuming the same amount of alcohol.
How much should older people be drinking?
The current NHMRC Australian guidelines don’t provide a limit on daily or weekly consumption of alcohol for older people. Instead, it advises older adults to consult their health practitioner to discuss the most appropriate level of alcohol consumption for them. It also suggests they take into account the effect of drinking on certain health conditions or medications.
The Department of Veteran Affairs fact-sheet advises that older people consider drinking less alcohol than the recommended guidelines for the general population. According to the Department, four standard drinks in a session will likely pose an unacceptable risk in a frail elderly person.
I heard that drinking is good for your heart, is this true?
There is some research that indicates that drinking small amounts daily or regularly improves heart health in middle aged and older people, but that idea is challenged by public health researchers who believe that the research is flawed.
How can local sporting clubs support older Australians?
A sense of belonging is important to the health of any Australian, but it’s older Australians who are often the most isolated. Providing a safe and nurturing club environment will go a long way in ensuring older people feel connected to the club and the local community.
Consider putting in place activities that will appeal to older members and guests that don’t involve alcohol. This might include modified exercise programs or club movie nights. Check out this fact-sheet for more ideas about engaging older Australians at your club.