The facts about drinking alcohol during your golden years may surprise you. In moderation, studies show it has many health benefits. Abused & its devastating.
Let’s explore the facts about alcohol consumption as we age. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Golden Oldies – I’m Not Talking About Music
The Good: Moderate Drinkers
A study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that drinking alcohol moderately in your golden years is associated with healthy brain functions. Further studies have shown that the seniors who drank moderately tend to live longer.
Over 1300 men and women were studied for over 29 years. In that period, they were given standard dementia screening every four years.
At the start of the study, the participants were about 42 years old; by the end of the study, they were 75.
The definition of moderate drinking was one to two drinks a day for women of any age and one to two drinks a day for men who were 65 and older.
Excessive drinking was classified as any amount of alcohol consumption that was over this amount.
The researchers also discovered that light alcohol drinking was tied to better episodic memory (the ability to remember specific items).
MRIs also determined that the hippocampus, which shrinks in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, was better preserved in the patients who drank alcohol moderately.
It is important to remember that this study was for people over the age of 60.
Midlife alcohol drinking DOES NOT affect memory or brain function in your senior years. What the study does conclude is that moderate drinking can be a part of a way to maintain cognitive thinking in your Golden Years.
The Bad: Lifelong Drinkers
For lifelong drinkers, the Golden Years are anything but golden.
In the cases of lifelong drinking, it is the frontal areas (not the hippocampus) that are affected.
This area affects creativity, problem-solving abilities, and sustained self-efficacy.
The deficits in the frontal brain from alcohol abuse result in poor motivation, memory deficits, and problems with ordering one’s life.
By educating seniors about the outcomes of abusive alcohol consumption a difference could be made resulting in the senior years truly being the Golden Years.
The Ugly: Senior Alcohol Abuse
In the past 20 years, alcohol consumption among senior citizens has grown enormously.
In 2006 it was found that 2.8 million adults over the age of 50 suffered from alcoholism. By last year (2020) the number rose to 5.7 million seniors.
An interesting statistic is that widowers in the US who are over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism.
There are many factors that could bring on alcohol abuse among seniors.
- Empty nest syndrome (when children grow up and move away)
- Loss of friendships due to moves, health complications, or death
- Deteriorating health conditions (cardiovascular disease, vision/hearing loss, and diabetes)
- Traumatic events like a spouse’s illness or death
- Sadness after downsizing a home
- Boredom from retirement or lack of socialization
But the dependency on alcohol to dimmish these situations can lead to a multitude of problems affecting the elderly and all of those around them.
If you feel or suspect your elderly loved one is drinking alcohol unsafely, we can help.