Alcohol & Seniors

Picture of a physicianWhat are the effects of alcohol on older adults? Should older people consume less alcohol? Are small amounts of alcohol actually helpful to your health? These are questions that only you and your doctor can answer.

Sometimes a doctor may suggest small amounts of alcohol for health reasons. However, because alcohol’s effects are more pronounced for senior adults, it may be best if older people refrain from heavy or even moderate drinking.

Slower reaction times, problems with hearing and seeing, and a lower tolerance to alcohol's effects put senior adults at higher risk for falls, car crashes, and other types of injuries that may result from drinking even a small amount.

Senior adults also tend to take more medicines that, if mixed with alcohol, can be very dangerous, sometimes even fatal. Alcohol can make many of the common medical conditions senior adults exhibit more debilitating.

Physical changes associated with aging can make older people feel "high" even after drinking only small amounts of alcohol. Therefore, even if there is no medical reason to avoid alcohol, older men and women should be careful with how much alcohol they consume.

Why do some elderly people drink too much? People of all ages often use alcohol to deal with grief, loss, and loneliness, all which are often part of the aging process.

Older adults may lose their job, because of retirement or layoffs, as well as lose family members and friends who pass away. Senior adults are often separated from children and grandchildren by distance or inability to travel and visit them.

Even social drinking can lead to problems, as older individuals are less able to handle the effects of alcohol consumption due to changes in the aging body.

Consult with your doctor if you are not sure how alcohol may be affecting you. In addition, consider your community counseling centers as they can provide you with helpful information and assistance about alcohol and its uses.

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