Growing numbers of older people with drinking issues

Following the Norfolk Conference on Ageing, Nick Conrad on BBC Radio Norfolk looked at concerns about the growing number of over 50s in Norfolk who drink too much alcohol.

Paul Martin, CEO of The Matthew Project and speaker at the Norfolk Conference on Ageing was a guest on the programme. "Older people tend to drink more often,'' he said. "People are drinking more at home, it's more affordable and measures tend to be larger.''

Dr Louise Smith, Director of Public Health at Norfolk County Council said "Few people have alcoholism but one in five people are drinking at a level that increases risk.''

Lynn Matthews of Age UK Norfolk, which hosted the Norfolk Council on Ageing Conference this month, explained "Life experiences such as bereavement and loneliness affect why people turn to alcohol to cope.''

A recent study found that some of the main reasons why older people drink are bereavement, retirement, loss of sense of purpose and few opportunities to socialise. 4 out of 5 people said they hadn't been asked by family, friends or health professionals about their drinking.

"Only 6% of people who have a serious problem with alcohol actually get help,'' said Paul Martin, CEO of The Matthew Project. "There's still a stigma around it. We've made a lot of progress with mental health; the new conversation we need to have is about our relationship with alcohol.

"Many won't be aware they have an issue,'' Paul explains. "Some of the signs of alcohol issues in older people include falls, confusion, becoming over-emotional or withdrawing from social contact. It's difficult though for friends and family to have the conversation with friends and loved ones when they think their drinking is becoming a problem. Our first aim is awareness, prevention and an early conversation with people, just like any other health issue, so that people think about their alcohol use.''

If you are concerned about your drinking call us on 01603 626123.

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