Category Archives: Retirement/Financial Planning

Guest Article: Addiction and the Elderly

Written by Anne Garrow

When we think of addiction our thoughts typically turn to the younger generation; those who are inexperienced, easily led and looking for a good time. We don’t tend to think of Grandma or Grandpa, who are by default older and wiser, falling prey to the devastating financial, emotional and physical consequences of becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling or internet use.

But research shows that age means little when it comes to developing an addiction and that addiction in the elderly is becoming so prevalent that experts are now labelling it ‘the invisible epidemic’. If you are a senior citizen who feels that they may be developing a dependency on a certain substance or habit then this article might help you to recognise this and seek the appropriate help.

Drinking and drugs

Studies indicate that there are a reported 2.5 million ‘older adults’ with drink and drug related problems in the US and almost 50% of nursing home residents have some sort of alcohol dependency. Alcohol is an extremely addictive substance and some experts believe that what starts out as an innocent drink to dispel feelings of boredom or isolation can develop into something more sinister over time. The same applies to prescription medicine. Unsurprisingly, senior citizens are the leading age group when it comes to taking long term medication and certain substances such as painkillers or anti-anxiety medication can become extremely addictive over time.

The danger is that elderly people tend to be far less tolerant of the effects of alcohol and drugs than the younger generation. They may become drunker quicker, putting themselves at risk of accident or injury. In later life the brain cells that can be destroyed by heavy drinking (causing unpleasant hangover headaches) no longer regenerate so this can lead to cognitive issues too, not to mention the physical effects on the liver and stomach.


Games such as bingo or black jack are not uncommon pastimes in senior citizens but studies warn that serious gambling is becoming a destructive hobby for many elderly people. One report goes as far as to suggest that casinos are deliberately preying on the elderly by offering free lunch coupons, drug discounts and easy accessibility to the elderly. All of which is thought to contribute to the shocking statistics that reveal senior citizens are the fastest population of gamblers with 70% of them gambling in the past year alone.

Any person of any age can get addicted to the thrill of gambling. Studies suggest that winning produces a similar brain reaction to that of taking cocaine – the ultimate high. But when they are losing, addicts feel desperate to recoup their losses and the nature of this vicious cycle has seen senior citizens gambling away their food money, estates and inheritance for their families. The study also examines the link between dementia – a degenerative condition fairly common the elderly and known to affect inhibitions and judgement calls – to the rise in gambling in the older generation.

Internet addiction

The internet can be a useful tool for elderly people who sometimes, due to health issues, are unable to get out and about as much as they’d like. The internet gives them the opportunity to have face to face conversations with family and friends, do their shopping or otherwise entertain themselves without even leaving the house. But over time this useful aid can manifest into dependency and other worrying activities such as disengagement from ‘real life’, compulsive spending and online gambling. There have also been a lot of high profile cases of older people being duped by ‘love interests’ they meet online, not to mention them being more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety which are generally linked to social withdrawal.

Seeking help

Many addicts struggle to admit that they have a problem and even when they do, asking for help can be a daunting prospect. For elderly people who may think that they ‘should have known better’ it can be even more difficult. But seeking help is the only way to improve the damaging situations that addiction can land you in. Speak to trusted friends, family members or your doctor who may be able to refer you to a therapist specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which aims to alter the distorted thought processes that leads to the addictive behaviour. Some elderly people who get pleasure from gambling, online activity or substance abuse might have a ‘lifes too short’ attitude but being an addict is no way to live your life at any age. Seek help and enjoy a healhier and happier life.

Resources, Seniors and substance abuse: the invisible epidemic, accessed 19.08.16

NCADD, Alcohol, drug dependency and seniors, accessed 19.08.16

AC Psych, Alcohol and older people, accessed 19.08.16

Salon, How the gambling industry preys on senior citizens, accessed 19.08.16

Social Work Today, High risk recreation: gambling problems in older adults, accessed 19.08.16

Journal of addiction research and therapy, Problematic internet use in older adults, accessed 19.08.16

American addiction centers, CBT and addiction treatment, accessed 19.08.16


Senior Online Dating

Image courtesy of Ambro at

Image courtesy of Ambro at

As time moves on invitations from family members continue to pour in, spending time with the grand & great-grandchildren are wonderful, however there is a loneliness they cannot always fill. As a person gets older and more mature, dating seems less like finding a physical attraction and more like finding a well-rounded person who can fulfill many different needs. Whether your last marriage ended due to death or divorce, being elderly doesn’t mean you have to be alone.

First question you should ask yourself is, are you ready to date? Can you handle emotionally and financially what dating may or may not have to offer?  Dating can be stressful and of course at times it seems as if you’re the only fish in the sea and the rest of the people are algae.  Trying to find someone can make you feel more alone than when you started the journey.

Not much has changed in the way of dating, however meeting people to get to the actual date is drastically different. There are many social media sites that people can meet, online dating is specifically targeted to those who are looking for a relationship. Online dating sites have recently realized that targeting demographics is the way to spark new interest in their services, there are dating sites for farmers, ethnic races, geographic areas and of course seniors.

A list of a few of the more popular senior dating sites:


And of course if you are already on a dating site, you can limit the age ranges of the people you are looking for to include only seniors, it’s not necessary to change sites and have to write your profile all over again.  Remember that sites like Craigslist are not dating sites, these are general post sites, which means you could be getting more or less than you bargained for.

Notifying your family and close friends about your intentions may be stressful or to them may be a relief, you may also get one of the more tech savvy grandkids to help you with your profile.  Talking to people you care about is a necessary step, sharing with people who care about you also acts as a safety feature.  Remember that you care about them, so keeping them in the loop helps you both.

Beginner in online dating? First thing first, set up your profile and figure out what you want. This is mandatory on most sites, so if you are unsure about what you are looking for, take a day or two and figure out the attributes of the person you would like to have in your life down to hair color, age and even whether they are a smoker or not.  If you don’t specify what you want you will get a larger list of people to look at, some of the fields are required but specify so, and of course if you change your mind later, you may always change these details.  Also give thought to what you want people to know about you.  Remember to keep personal details and sensitive information about yourself off your profile, to avoid any possible scams or issues later.

What information is safe to give someone online:

  • Name
  • Birth Month
  • Things You Are Interested In
  • General Area you live or visit
  • How many children or grandchildren you have
  • General Hobbies (don’t specify where and when)
  • Culture and religion
  • Phone Number (when you start to get better acquainted)

What information you shouldn’t give to someone online:

  • Full Birthday (of you or anyone you care about)
  • Address (of you or anyone you care about)
  • Phone Number (of anyone you care about)
  • Mother’s Maiden Name
  • Children or Grandchildren’s Names
  • Social Security Number

Now that you’re a little more comfortable with the idea of dating and your family is too, think about the future.  Are you looking for a life partner?  Are you willing to relocate and what does that mean for your family?  These will all be questions you will come across sometime in the dating process.

Kathy Damer from a Blog Resource for Senior Dating says, “Take it slow. Be patient about meeting someone. If they are genuine they will have similar concerns about you being genuine too.  If the person is pushy about meeting you too soon this is not a good sign. Move on, even if you’re developing feelings. Easier to cut loose now than when it’s too late.”  You can find all of Kathy’s advice at

Online dating is filled with difficult way to decipher how someone feels about you by adding things such as winks, this is an easy way to say to another person that you are interested them without any pressure or commitment and of course no obligation to message you or wink back at you.

Always remember that you’re not the only person who might be learning to online date, so if someone doesn’t get back to you or it takes them a while to get back to you, don’t take it personal. They may not be interested, didn’t notice your message or wink, have little internet access, are shy, or generally don’t know what they are doing.

Messaging another person.  Remember to take it slow, ask them about their additional interests other than what is said on their profile, of course read their profile first.  If you agree to meet in person, remember to find a safe public location.  Always notify someone you are close to as to where you are going.  If you have a cell phone, remember to bring it with you just in case.

Meeting in person.  It’s so exciting when you finally meet someone in person.  Beware that a profile is often the reflection of what a person wants to be rather than who they really are (or what the writer thinks the person is), meeting them in person will help you discover that inner self.  Remember to keep an open mind and that you’re discovering more about this person every time you interact with them. Maybe jot down some notes about things to talk about and questions to ask.  The more you date the easier it will become, especially if you’ve been out of the scene for a while.

Deciding to Stop Communicating. Remember the golden rule, do unto others.  If you decide that you no longer want to communicate with a person, for whatever reason (discovering you aren’t ready to date, just don’t see eye to eye with them, found the love of your life, etc), remember to be respectful and tell them that you no longer wish to communicate so they aren’t wondering what happened to you.  If you decide to give a brief reason why, remember to make it brief, giving too many details may confuse the situation.  Remember that’s it’s okay to not like someone or just want to be their friend.  Understand that this may happen to you as well.  Things don’t always work out with everyone all the time but when it does the magic is worth all the heart ache.

Falling in love. Remember to talk to a lawyer before you pop the question.  Remember that when you get married your estate doesn’t necessarily get inherited by your spouse and your children’s inheritance isn’t always secure.  Don’t take any of this for granted.  You can find a lawyer in your state on our website: or

I hope you find these tips make it easier to figure out how the online dating world works and of course, best of luck to you in your endeavors.

Written by Valerie Michel Buck

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