Have we overfilled our cups to our breaking point? 84



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Last week I was speaking to my mum who revealed a sad family secret – my grandmother was an alcoholic. Mum didn’t like to use the word because it sounds too harsh, but that is what my late Grandma Louisa was…addicted to alcohol. After my grandfather came back from his duties as an airforce pilot in World War II, he was a changed man. He hardly spoke to my grandmother and was deeply affected by the things he saw. Back then, in the mid-40s, no one spoke of post traumatic stress disorder. It wasn’t even a recognised thing; you just got on with life. The alcoholism of my grandmother continued well into my mother’s 20s and 30s and it made my mum swear to never touch a drop of alcohol. She had seen what it did to her own mum – make her a shell of who she used to be.

The most recent news of alcoholism in over 60s has struck a chord with me as it is close to home. Alarming statistics have revealed that the amount of over 60 women with alcohol problems has risen 65 per cent in the last five years, with experts sayings the rise in older alcoholics is the result of the stay-at-home drinking culture we have. Sitting at home alone with a bottle has become more acceptable and even dealt with humour instead of concern, making it seem like it is not a problem when it clearly is for so many of us.

As supermarkets and online shopping offer more convenience for alcohol shoppers, there is growing alcohol dependency…especially in senior women.

So why are we reaching for so many glasses? Loneliness, boredom and isolation are the main reasons, with retirement being an instigator.

While men still make up two thirds of alcoholics, the gap between the sexes is narrowing with our nation’s approach to this reliance on booze. Dr Sarah Jarvis, a London GP and medical advisor to the Drinkaware charity, said a more relaxed cultural approach to drinking is dangerously well-suited to the older generation.

Our younger counterparts are more likely to binge drink (i.e. drink a lot in one session), whereas over 60 women prefer to drink every single day. Liver expert Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said, “Silver surfers have more time and they have more disposable money. But there is good evidence that right across the demographic the heaviest drinkers are the most price sensitive [and] availability is…a key factor. If you can shuffle down to the petrol station at 2am and buy a bottle, then that is key for those who drink at home”.

Alcoholism doesn’t just have detrimental affects on your mental health and liver, but it can increase your risk of breast cancer in your 60s (increase by 7 to 11 per cent for even unit of alcohol you drink a day), as well as your risk of high blood pressure, type II diabetes and heart disease.

All of this may sound shocking in writing but the reality is two-fold: some of us may not realise that this problem is so prevalent, and some may not realise they have an issue. Older women may not fit the stereotype of an alcoholic, but that is precisely why we need to get help if we suspect we or a friend is suffering.

To find out more about what constitutes a standard drink, click here

If you or a friend need support, you can contact the below organisations:

Alcohol & Other Drugs Information Service (ADIS) 
24-hour service
Freecall 1800 131 350

1300 22 4636
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Support for depression, anxiety and related disorders

24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free alcohol and drug counselling online


What do you think about this issue? Do you think we have a problem as a society? Have you have problems with alcohol? Tell us your thoughts and stories below.

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. The number of women with drinking issues is alarming.We ban smoking Advertising,however Magazines, Newspapers are full of ads for Alcohol .
    There is nothing worse than seeing drunk older women.
    In my opinion there is way to much emphasis placed in what we are drinking,
    Just take a moment and be aware of all the Alcohol related articles on your own Facebook page,and newsfeed.
    Please before anyone gets upset,This is my opinion only.Cheers!

    5 REPLY
    • Drug crazed people are far worse, far more frightening than a drunk older woman and a damn sight more dangerous.

    • Any body crazy drunk is sad. But I agree ban the adverts for sure start taxing it like cigarettes and some positive adverts too. But parents alcoholics and have known a few. Some get thru physically ok but others don’t luck of draw. Mother lived to 90 but dad dead a 54 due to alcohol.

    • Unfortunately Margaret that’s not strictly true. Alcohol is also a mood and temperament changer any one of any age even the dear old grandma can turn into a violent nasty and unpredictable person due to alcohol.

  2. I agree, I find with new women friends that I meet it is rarely let’s get together for coffee. The usual is come over for drinks. I had one over 60 friend who drank the bottle of wine that she bought then drank half a bottle of our scotch. I would have been unconscious but she ok when her husband arrived to pick her up. I now try to catch up by meeting and having a walk by the river or beach. I am Definetly NOT a tea totter . Each to their own.

  3. Reading this article I understand the stigma for a woman that has an alcohol problem ..the total acceptance of drinking being ok by society..then the lack of understanding of alcohol addiction. There is help..there are Alcoholics Anonymous meetings everywhere..just look it up for local area..also Al-Anon
    Family Groups for concerned relatives..AA is the most recognized form of help for alcoholics..

  4. Yes. Decades ago ‘smoking was cool’ .
    Now drinking Wine is promoted as sophisticated & cool. I hate it & have even been told by friends I should drink it!

    2 REPLY
    • I agree with Froney, it has become a socially acceptable health fad to have the red wine, so I wonder whether this has started by the wine industry to increase wine sales. You can get the same health benefit from drinking red grape juice as this is where the benefits are, not in the alcohol, it’s not socially acceptable to drink non alcoholic wines. I don’t know how many noses have turned down at me when I say I don’t drink. My liver and brain are more important to me than there attitude and being socially “cool”. Alcohol caused so much grief in my child hood it put me off this socially accepted “alcoholism”.

  5. I have one (that I know of) female over 60s friend who has a real problem but doesn’t realise. A Male friend (same vintage) also has this problem. I am sure loneliness and boredom is the key in both situations. I enjoy a wine or mixed drink occasionally when with company but that’s it. Rumour has it that my grandmother had a drinking problem so I’m careful. My mother wouldn’t drink because of her experience with her mum.

  6. After my dad died, my mum became an alcoholic, she could not cope, I am not making excuses for her but the older I got the more I realized what she had to deal with. She had me late in life, I was 9 years old when he died, and she doted on him, they had just bought a house, it was mortgaged and she got a job, unfortunately in a pub!! Anyway she was drunk for most of teens years and then she stopped. by her own choice. it cured me for life of ever drinking, but I still think if you enjoy a drink great, have a few but always drink in moderation, it is not pretty for those around you nor is it good for your health

    1 REPLY
    • Can totally relate to your post Libbi. The same happened with my lovely mum. My dad’s very severe heart attack and subsequent major operation, coupled with my mum suffering a painful, degenerative back condition resulted in her becoming an alcoholic. I was older than you when all this started, but still found it hard to understand. Now I’m much older, and have inherited her back problems I realise she probably used alcohol initially to deaden the pain emotionally and physically. She remained a loving mum until she passed away. I have to say I have a drink now and then, but am very aware of what can happen, but I also understand why this happened to mum.

  7. I have found I can’t drink any more than two glasses now but I know others who drink much more and I think they are unhappy

  8. Yes, grew up in a very large family with 23 Aunts and Uncles and only 4 were what I would class as social drinkers, so it seemed the norm. My parents as well, so consequently I chose not to drink and am regarded as the family wowser. My parents are in their 80s now and are great these days but there is a lot of binge drinkers now in the family including my eldest, very sad to see another generational problem. I would ban all alcohol if I had my wish.

  9. I keep trying to comment. But it sounds so disapproving. .and I keep hitting the wrong letters ….giving up

  10. I think people need to realise that you can have fun without drinking alcohol. Moderation is the key. you guys mention it all the time too. there are deeper issues if it is abused & unfortunately behind closed doors no-one knows.

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