Activity may include some or all steps below, depending on the capacity of the LDAT and partner community organisations.
The key steps involved in delivering ’Alcohol, Other Drugs and Older People’ activities are provided below as a useful starting point for developing your activity and informing your approach.
These steps provide an indicative guide; it is important to tailor your approach to your local community.
LDATs may be responsible for delivering activities if they have the appropriate expertise. Alternatively, they can work with their partners and communities to support the delivery of these activities. This might include:
Engage the community to get alcohol, other drugs and older people on the agenda by:
A critical role for LDATs is to engage with their community to put alcohol and other drug-related issues on the public agenda and to motivate them to take action.
Tips for engaging the community:
Providing older people in your community with quality information and resources on alcohol and other drugs by:
LDATs can help to combat the mixed messages people may hear in the media and in social circles; this can help counter misinformation.
There is a lack of readily available information for older people about the impact and effects of alcohol and other drugs on the ageing body, and existing information can be conflicting or misinformed. Some research indicates that drinking small amounts daily or regularly improves heart health in middle-aged and older people, but that conclusion is challenged by public health oriented researchers who believe that research is flawed. Nevertheless, this has created a ‘health benefits of alcohol’ bias that is prominent in this age group. Hence, older people have limited knowledge and can be sceptical about the harms of alcohol.
Confusion about healthy drinking guidelines is common. LDATs can counter this through the provision of resources to community organisations. This includes providing evidence and data on the risks that older people face when they consume alcohol and other drugs.
Providing clear, evidence-informed facts on the impact and effects of alcohol and other drug use for older people is important. Table 1 provides an overview of the evidence including the key issues and facts. Links to more detailed information is provided throughout.
|NHMRC guidelines||Information should be aligned with the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol available at: nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol-guidelines The current NHMRC Australian guidelines ‘to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol’ do not provide a limit on daily or weekly consumption of alcohol for older people. Instead, it advises older adults to consult their health practitioner to discuss the most appropriate level of alcohol consumption for them. It suggests they take account of the effect drinking has on certain health conditions and medications, as well as the possible harms associated with older people drinking.|
|Alcohol and other drug harms for older people||Older people are at an increased risk of: • higher intoxication at lower amounts of alcohol • all types of accidents, especially falls • motor vehicle accidents • suicide • impaired bone regeneration and regrowth after a fracture • alcohol dependency • unpleasant or dangerous side effects from interactions from medication • adverse impact on existing health conditions.|
|Alcohol use in older people||Older people are living longer, and often experience increased health conditions and increased use of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medication as they age. Older people are more likely to consume alcohol daily than younger people.|
|Factors that contribute to alcohol and other drug consumption among older people||Substantial work is required to improve our understanding of older people’s use of alcohol – including the role of cultural differences. For many older people, drinking is an important and enjoyable part of a social life. Other factors that contribute to AOD consumption at this age may include: • lack of knowledge about how the effects of alcohol can change with age • lack of understanding about the interaction between alcohol and other drugs and medication • high levels of mental health issues • social isolation and reduced social opportunities • having a partner or friend who drinks • living in a family or community tolerant of heavy drinking • financial stress • other stresses including loneliness which may result in self-medicating • alcohol and other drug dependency.  Preventing and reducing alcohol- and other drug related harm among older people: A practical guide for health and welfare professionals. nceta.flinders.edu.au/files/4614/4892/9660/EN605.pdf|
|Older people and alcohol: key issues||The ageing process and metabolic changes As people age, their metabolism slows and their tolerance of alcohol lessens. This can lead to alcohol having a more potent effect on an older person compared to a younger person who consumes the same amount of alcohol. When alcohol is absorbed, it is distributed throughout the body’s total water content. As the volume of total body water decreases with age, a given amount of alcohol produces a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and intoxication at lower amounts of alcohol (possibly from just one or two standard drinks). This effect is relevant to people over about 70 years, although there is considerable variation from person to person. Medications Older people often take regular medication, which may interact with alcohol to cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects. The risk is considerably greater when a number of medications are involved. People may be unaware of the interactions between medication and alcohol. See the Australian Government’s Department of Health Quality Use of Medicines information http://goo.gl/czzoUz Preventing and reducing alcohol- and other drug related harm among older people: A practical guide for health and welfare professionals. http://goo.gl/Qkho8J Retirement Retirement can also be a time of increased financial vulnerability, decreased social activity and loneliness. People may respond by taking substances and may also begin to self-medicate at this time; especially if health issues are causing pain, discomfort or insomnia. Social connection Social isolation is a risk factor relating to the development of alcohol and other drug issues. Promoting social connections, including good relationships with others and a sense of belonging to the community can protect older people against AOD harms.|
LDATs can distribute information to older people and community partners in a number of ways. This could include:
Increase community participation and social connection by:
LDATs might provide opportunities for participation and social connection directly, or working with partners to promote external opportunities.
LDATs have a critical role in increasing participation and social connection for older people.
Consider action to increase social networks (e.g. run networking events, increase membership of local groups), build social connection through arts participation, promote civic engagement and volunteering, increase people’s sense of belonging, and promote a culture where people socially support one another to engage in low-risk drinking practices.
Examples of action that could increase community participation and social connection include:
Link community organisations to quality programs and services by:
A key role of Local Drug Action Teams is to link communities to quality AOD programs. These may include:
LDATs can also provide advice and support to help community organisations determine a course of action for delivering quality AOD programs, such as awareness raising campaigns about increased alcohol and other drug-related risk in older age.
Promote collaboration between community organisations to:
LDATs have a key role in facilitating productive partnerships in the community. Collaboration between community organisations may focus on:
See Planning: working with community partners for further guidance on engaging with community partners.
Measure the success of your Alcohol, Other Drugs and Older People activity: