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'Time-bomb' of elderly drinkers in Devon and Cornwall

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 07, 2013

Comments (10)

The Westcountry is facing a ticking "time-bomb" if it cannot successfully tackle a growing drinking problem in the elderly, experts have warned.

It is estimated that one in five older men and one in ten older women drink enough to harm themselves, a rise of 40% in men and 100% in women over the past 20 years.

Easily available alcohol and a disintegration of traditional community life has led to a surge in the amount of people drinking or experiencing problems as they get older.

With a quarter of the population in the South West expected to be aged 65 or over by 2033, experts are concerned it could put an increased strain on the West's already over-burdened health service.

Jez Bayes, alcohol strategy lead for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said awareness needs to be raised so they can get to grips with the problem.

"If I was writing a tabloid headline the phrase I'd use would be 'time-bomb'," he said. "We really have to get to grips with it now and make people aware of sensible drinking levels.

"If you think about the generation that are in their sixties now compared to say the generation before them, there's a lot more choice when they are shopping, alcohol is much more likely to be in your weekly grocery and for supermarkets its one of the biggest lures, its a way of trying to win customers from other supermarkets.

"It's now available pretty much 24-7, if you got back 30 or 40 years ago, it was at pubs, it was social, it was much more expensive relative to the cost of living."

"It's now much more likely to take it for granted that you have got alcohol in the home."

It is thought that about a third of pensioners with drink problems develop them for the first time in later life.

In Devon, the highest rate of alcohol admissions between October 2011 and September 2012 were in older age groups, according to the council, "reflecting the long-term effects of alcohol-use through life."

Last week Cornwall Council, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) and Addaction Cornwall used Older People's Day to highlight the issue.

According to its statistics, older people are more sensitive to alcohol's effects, react more slowly, tend to lose their sense of balance, and their livers becomes less efficient at breaking down alcohol, as they age.

It said reasons for alcohol abuse in old age include bereavement, loneliness, pain, ill health, disability and depression.

Felicity Owen, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Director of Public Health, said: "As the population of older people in Cornwall grows, what we don't want to see is the problems associated with drink and drugs also increasing.

"The effects are often greater for older people and it becomes more difficult for people to deal with them."

For more information call Cornwall & Isles of Scilly DAAT on 01726 223400.

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  • Sue200  |  October 08 2013, 5:02PM

    TheGeofflane: Me too! At least when the olds have a few drinks too many they don't go out in the street, start a bit of trouble, become abusive, fall over and then puke and p++ in shop doorways, use up police resources and have to go off to A & E. Well, not many of them anyway. ! Cheers m'dear.

  • break  |  October 07 2013, 8:08PM

    Look at the way GB is being run,its surprising that more people don't turn to drink,This sounds like one of those stories that pops up to give parliament a reason to up the price of something,like alcohol.

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  • vulcan  |  October 07 2013, 8:03PM


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  • First Impressions  |  October 07 2013, 3:46PM

    Talk about scaremongering......pathetic comment "time bomb".....this person needs to get out into the real world more often. Probably never been to a pub in her life. Sad

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  • TheGeofflane  |  October 07 2013, 1:20PM

    No, I didn't swear, each sloe has to be pierced a few times so the juices are released. All Daily Mail-owned papers use this stupid 'censorship'.

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  • TheGeofflane  |  October 07 2013, 1:17PM

    Now, Sloe Gin, to warm you NEXT winter, not this one. Only downside to the many internet recipes is *****ing your sloes, but it's well worth the effort. Just don't try to pick the sloes from the trees I planted around my house years ago. God knows what's good for you, and Nature provides. Give friends you don't like a bottle of your home-made sloe gin and tell 'em they've to keep it a year afore they can drink it.

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  • TheGeofflane  |  October 07 2013, 1:02PM

    Rose hips are at their best now. As a small boy I picked rose hips and my mum made vitamin-C rich bedtime drinks for me. Each year now I pick 2lbs of large rosehips locally and they make a demijohn of wine. You have to keep it six months before you can drink it, but lots of red, red wine can fill the gap. As Willie Nelson once wrote, ' There's more old drunks than there are old doctors, so I guess I better have another round!' It's whisky that'll kill you. Red wine is a health food. Dad made 92, I am 70 and still here. So's Willie.

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  • TheGeofflane  |  October 07 2013, 12:49PM

    I keep reading how a glass of red wine is good for me. Now that bus service cuts render me house-bound I think I'll live forever! Pour me another one, just like the other one......

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  • Dantwo  |  October 07 2013, 11:03AM

    A couple of glasses of wine a day isn't going to hurt anyone. My father has a couple of glasses of whisky a day and is still going strong at 86. In moderation alcohol can be beneficial as I'm sure older readers will agree.

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  • Lafrowda  |  October 07 2013, 9:50AM

    Health professionals don't always sing from the same hymnsheet. I was asked (as always) on visiting my doctor "do you smoke?" No I said, "How much alcohol do you consume?" None I said. " I suppose you don't go with dirty women either he sneered."

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