Category Archives: Senior Lifestyle
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.
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.
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.
Recovery.org, 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
Before I get started, let me say I am not the healthiest eater, I am not perfect, my parents didn’t teach me proper eating nor to this day do they know themselves. I do try my best to avoid certain foods, gummy bears seemingly to be the exception and I’ve come to terms with this guilty pleasure and don’t even walk down that isle in the grocery store. I had to change the way I ate from a traditional American diet, to a more natural diet because I was starting to get sick. Not just a little sick, a lot of sick, sick in places I only heard of and thought was fake, like my THYROID. This started a conversation with my Grandmother, who told me everything she had wrong with her and I began to realize I was staring at my scary future. This prompted a change in my eating. So here is a list of the worst foods to eat, many of us eat these foods daily, some of which you may not know can be really bad for you.
- Microwave Popcorn. Yes, I do love to suck the butter residue on my finger tips during a thrilling home movie with the family. However microwave popcorn is filled with chemicals especially a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid ( PFOA) which is lined to infertility in women. If you’re not worried about fertility, it also increases the risk of kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas and testicular cancers.  Try air popped popcorn instead and melt your own butter (not margarine) or add garlic powder for flavor, you’ll thank me later!
- Non-organic fruits & veggies. Pesticides can cause all sorts of issues. Washing these don’t necessarily remove 100 percent of pesticides. I clean my fruits and vegetables by spraying vinegar on them, letting them sit for a few minutes, rinsing then I flip them and repeat. I notice this removes some of the waxy residue on the fruits and veggies themselves. Overall, buying organic is better. With the increase in availability of organic foods, prices have become more reasonable.
- Canned fruits & veggies. The wax lining of canned foods are made with a chemical call BPA, which has been blown up recently by the media as being bad for you, with good reason. You’ll see on many plastics sold in stores BPA free. Additional canned fruits & veggies are packed with added sugars and sodium and lack the nutritional value of fresh or frozen fruits & veggies. The sooner you consume fruits & veggies from the time they are picked, the more nutritionally dense they are. Frozen fruits & veggies are frozen at their peak and lose nutritional value more slowly than those that are canned, the bags are also easier to open, especially for the elderly.
- Processed Meats & Cheeses. Such a disappointment to hear considering I LOVE pepperoni. Processed meats are full of excessive sodium and possible chemicals for preservation and coloring. These include sausage, hot dogs, bacon, American cheese and lunch meats such as bologna or pimento loaf. Consider eating items such as turkey bacon, sliced turkey or ham. 
- Farmed Fish. Farmed fish are fed unnatural diets that may be contaminated with chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones. Farmed fish also lack the same amount of Omega-3 fatty acids that wild fish contain.
- Potato Chips. High in fat, sodium, calories and low in nutritional value, this is obviously a bad choice for those who are health conscious. Love the flavor? Me too! Try an alternative, baked potato chips. Better yet, skip potato chips altogether.
- Bad cooking oil. I used the word bad because there are actually good cooking oils. Bad: Vegetable Oil; Canola Oil; Margarine. Good Cooking Oil: Coconut Oil; Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Real Butter. Bad cooking oil contains an excess of Omega-6 fatty acids. 
- Pickled Foods. High in sodium.
- Table Salt. Once again high in sodium. Try instead sea salt, which not only is high in sodium and full of flavor, also contains other vitamins and minerals. Himalayan sea salt is the best version and is becoming increasingly more available. Use sparingly.
- Smoked Foods. Smoking foods results in the absorption of tar that smoke produces which makes smoked meats and nuts high in fat and salt. Sadly, this includes bbq. Instead, bake the meat then add bbq sauce later.
- Cured Foods. We aren’t pirates and no longer need to cure foods for preservation. Though they taste good that’s because they are packed full of sodium and coloring. Fresh is best.
- White Flour. This includes it’s ugly friend white bread and other items such as boxed cake mix. We have all heard that white flour is bleached, I’m not exactly sure what that means but I know white flour is highly processed removing most of the natural nutrients. White flour is highly processed. This means white flour has a high glycemic rate, which means it quickly raises the blood sugar level and insulin levels. 
- Genetically modified organisms is science talk for food that’s been messed with at the cellular level. Though these may not be easy to spot, it’s best to stay away from GMOs. “In a study done by Dr. Pusztai at the Rowett Institute in Scotland, rats were fed GMO foods, especially potatoes. ALL rats showed damaged immune systems, pre-cancerous cell growths, along with smaller brains and livers, in just the first 10 days of the project.”  Here is a list of the top 10 GMO foods to avoid: http://www.nationofchange.org/top-10-gmo-foods-avoid-1343568178
- I will always love my gummy bears, but I know that they are bad for me. So instead of eating a whole bag, I take a few, put the bag away and pretend those few are way more than they really are. We’ve been warned over and over how bad sugar is. Need an alternative, try eating a fruit, fruit is also high in sugar but a more natural sugar, of course don’t overload, sugar is still sugar. Additionally if you need sugar, try Stevia, which is made from a plant and sweeter than actual sugar itself.
- Not really sugar, sugar. Artificial sweeteners may be calorie free, but are full of chemicals which are worse than actual sugar. Once again, try Stevia.
- Anything low fat, fat free or diet. Most of the time these phrases mean that the foods have been “edited” to reduce calories or fat by adding undesirable chemicals, products or sweeteners. The best low fat and diet food, is actually food, it’s called fruits & veggies.
- Excessive drinking is bad for you. Drinking a glass of wine or having one cocktail is not a big deal, having more can cause so many other issues later down the road. Consider what is in your drink, many cocktails are made with syrups with an excess of sugars.
- Red Meat. Red meat in small, infrequent amounts is good for you. “..in a study done over a 10 year period, eating red meat every day, even a small amount, such as that quarter pound hamburger you like to enjoy at lunch, increased a man’s risk of dying from cancer by 22 percent and a woman’s chance by 20 percent. A separate research study has shown that eating a lot of red meat increased the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer.” 
- Full of sugar. This is a huge no-no. “Soda is often the root cause of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, which is when the contents of the stomach leak into the esophagus causing not only pain but an actual burning of the esophagus from stomach acid.” 
- Diet Soda. This really falls into both #15 & #16. Avoid diet soda.
- Non-organic dressing is filled with oils, which can be genetically engineered, they can be high in high-fructose ingredients and even contain paint chemicals. 
- Not really coffee itself, but of course the additives of coffee, often sugar or artificial sugar. I noticed that one lunch, I had 4 cups of coffee which contained 4 of those individual servings of half & half and of course 8 packets of sugar. 8 whole packets of sugar for one meal. It’s okay to have your coffee black.
Eat better because we don’t want to lose our readers to bad health. Like I always say (for the purpose of this blog), “tis better to die of a worthy cause rather than because you ate something you don’t remember.” Remember three gummy bears taste just as good as a whole bag, chew slowly!
-Written by Valerie Michel Buck