Drinking in Our Senior Years
anonymous Asks ...
What exactly is a man in his mid 70s who is drinking too much supposed to do. My uncle retired only a couple of years ago but since he did he’s come adrift and all he does every day now is sit in the local hole in the wall bar and drink quarts of beer from mid morning onward. I’ve talked to him about it and he says he knows he’s got a bit of a problem but he doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s a really good man but he’s a bit cranky and set in his ways he’s just not going to do well in any situation with younger people like AA. He’s not well off but he needs some help and I am not sure he should be living on his own really. What can a senior citizen on a pension do when he needs serious help with his drinking?
Jim LaPierre Says ...
Hi there and thank you for your excellent question. We've seen a lot of folks struggle with retirement and for many, they drink because they're just not sure what else to do or because they're trying to fill an emptiness in their lives. I'm a big believer that people need a reason to get out of bed in the morning. In the absence of structure - if it doesn't really matter what day of the week it happens to be, the pitfalls of depression become more common and harder to get out of.
I'd ask your uncle what he misses and what he love/loved doing. Volunteerism, mentoring, and other ways to invest in the lives of others can be extremely rewarding if he is open to it. Enjoying his life more seems key to his recovery.
Of course I also want to encourage him to speak to his doctor and discuss his drinking, the risks and how he can mitigate them. Then I want to talk about AA because in addition to the countless benefits of the program, the median age of most meetings is NOT young people - unless he is in a very rural area, I'd expect that if he were willing to attend a variety of meetings, he'd have no problem at all meeting folks in their 50s and 60s and perhaps even folks in their 70s.
Being "cranky" is often simply depression without vulnerability. The twilight years (terrible euphemism) are hard. Getting into something that's more fun than drinking feels like something he may be amenable to - if you're willing to involve him, help him find something he can feel good about doing or to have a greater purpose, then I like his chances. Good luck and blessed be!