Alcohol Other Drugs and Older People overview

Alcohol, Other Drugs and Older People refers to a group of activities (e.g. awareness raising initiatives and education programs) that aim to prevent alcohol and other drug-related harms in older people.

What is Alcohol, Other Drugs and Older People?

This toolkit focuses on providing evidence-informed information around how:

  • the ageing process impacts the body and makes it more prone to the debilitating effects of alcohol and other drugs
  • medication may interact with alcohol and other drugs to cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects
  • older people can be supported in their transition into retirement by building social connections that reduce their risk of experiencing alcohol and other drug-related harms.

Which target audience does this toolkit focus on?

The focus of this toolkit is on improving outcomes for older people. This resource is particularly useful for older people, or those working with, or otherwise coming into contact with older people who are transitioning into retirement, or who are disadvantaged or isolated.1

Older people are a priority target group of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

The term ‘older people’ can be defined in various ways. In Australia, the definition of an older person is accepted as the chronological age of 65 years2, however the Alcohol and Drug Foundation defines older people as those aged 50 years and above. This is because the metabolic changes lessen our tolerance of alcohol from the age of 50, and also, people may be transitioning into retirement from this age.

Other commonly used terms for ‘older people’ include senior/s, aged, pensioner and retiree.

How does this toolkit help prevent alcohol and other drug-related issues?

Alcohol, Other Drugs and Older People activities help prevent alcohol and other drug-related issues by providing evidence-informed information and support to people as they get older and transition into retirement. Although older people are not as visible in their consumption of alcohol, Australian data indicates that they are more likely than younger people to consume alcohol on a daily basis.3

Typically, older people have limited knowledge or tend to be sceptical about the harms of alcohol. Confusion about healthy drinking guidelines is common for example, which could in part be the result of the lack of information directed at older people.4

Effective and age-specific information and support helps older people to take account of the effect of drinking on certain health conditions or medications, as well as possible harms associated with older people drinking. It also supports people as they transition into retirement.

How effective are activities aimed at older people?

By strengthening older peoples’ knowledge on the impact of ageing and their risk of experiencing alcohol and other drug-related harms, tailored activities can help this group to reassess any regular drinking they may be doing, and can be an effective way to improve a range of social and health outcomes including those that are closely related to alcohol and other drug-related issues: such as falls, motor vehicle accidents and suicide.5

Such activities help to create opportunities for social connection within the community and a sense of belonging, which are key factors that protect against the risk of alcohol and other drug harms.

  1. Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2017, ‘Older people’s drinking habits: Very little , Very Often’ Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2017.
  2. ATO, 2022, ‘Transition to retirement’ Australian Taxation Office, Australian Government
  3. Nicholas, R., Roche, A., Lee, N., Bright, S., & Walsh, K. (2015). Preventing and reducing alcohol- and other drug related harm among older people: A practical guide for health and welfare professionals. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders University: Adelaide, South Australia.
  4. Kelly, S. et al., 2018. Alcohol and older people:A systematic Review of barriers, facilitators and context of drinking in older people and implications for intervention design. PLoS One, 13(1).
  5. Ibid

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