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Alcoholism & the Elderly

Learn about alcoholism and the elderly in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


People often wonder about elderly people and alcohol use. In fact, there are elderly people who use alcohol problematically. And often people assume that those are people who always drank problematically. And certainly it's sometimes the case where people just continue their patterns, but what often happens is that there's some elderly people who've never really been problematic drinkers, who become problematic drinkers in their later years.

The reason for that are often social. It may be loneliness. People are alone for the first time. They may have lost their spouse and are alone and very unhappy, but what we see from elderly people, it's very dangerous for fairly obvious reasons. Elderly people when they drink are going to be more likely to fall and injure themselves.

The other thing is there's going to be more likely to have cognitive effects of alcohol because of normal cognitive slowing that goes along with aging that alcohol use can actually accelerate those cognitive processes, the cognitive deterioration. So it's very common for elderly too then, again, have more profound effects of the alcohol more quickly than their younger counterparts.

It's important to really pay attention to parents and elderly people around you to see if you notice changes in them. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's from drinking, but it's important to just be aware of the elderly and their drinking and see if their drinking is changing. Ask them if their drinking is changing.

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