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Charity demanding action to help alcohol abuse in the older generation

PUBLISHED: 15:24 17 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 17 July 2017

More older people are drinking alcohol in excess. The Matthew Project wants to tackle the problem in Norfolk. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

More older people are drinking alcohol in excess. The Matthew Project wants to tackle the problem in Norfolk. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

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Alcohol abuse and heavy drinking is normally associated with the younger generation.

Paul MartinPaul Martin

But Norfolk drug and alcohol support charity, the Matthew Project, is looking to tackle the increasing national problem of people aged 50 and over living with alcohol abuse.

Paul Martin, the Matthew Project chief executive, is appealing to work alongside organisations in contact with older people to support individuals affected by the addiction.

Mr Martin, a speaker at tomorrow’s Norfolk Council on Ageing conference in Norwich, hosted by Age UK Norfolk, said: “The national trend is for increasing alcohol use in older people. A lot of services are directed at younger working people.”

He added the national picture of young people drinking too much was “improving”.

“We want to talk about the stigma of alcohol problems. Older people don’t like going to groups as much as younger people. They might want someone to visit them at home rather than go to a medical centre.

“Across the whole population, alcohol affects us more than drugs. In Norfolk we are one of the higher areas for alcohol consumption because we have a large older community which is going to grow and we are not seeing many of these people coming forward for help from the main services. We want to redesign these services,” Mr Martin said.

He wants the Matthew Project to work with GP surgeries and councils.

The chief executive said people aged 50 and over were “more sensitive” to alcohol, compared with young people.

He added this age group was drinking excessively because of many reasons.

These included having a lack of purpose; more spare time; loneliness; bereavement; trauma and a sudden change in life.

Mr Martin added: “So many people are not receiving the help that they could, especially older people, as the over 50s are under-represented in services.

“We think excessive drinking is a young person problem but older people drink more – just little and often mostly. The impact on older people can be dramatic - lower tolerance, family and relationships, falls, medications, dementia.”

Visit www.norfolkrecoverypartnership.org.uk





Alcohol abuse statistics

The most recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have revealed 926 men and 443 women aged 55 and over in Norfolk are dependent on alcohol.

Mr Martin said there were around 420 preventable alcohol-related falls among older people aged 65 and over each year in Norfolk, based on national figures.

The recommended weekly amount for men and women is 14 units a week - equivalent to six 170ml glasses of wine, six pints of lager, five pints of cider or 14 spirit shots.

ONS survey results reveal that nationally between 2005 and 2011, around a fifth of men aged 65 and over, between 20pc and 23pc, drank above four units of alcohol on at least one day a week.

Between 10pc and 14pc of women aged 65 and over drank above three units on at least one day in a week.

Email Older.People@phoenix–futures.org.uk for advice on alcohol abuse in old age for people aged 65 and over. Alternatively call 0300 7900 227.

Focus on Norfolk figures

A breakdown of the predicted numbers of people across Norfolk dependent on alcohol based on ONS figures.

18-24 age group:

Men - 925 (2.5pc of Norfolk’s population in the age group)

Women - 513 (1.4pc)

25-34 age group:

Men - 1,840 (3.6pc)

Women - 424 (0.8pc)

35-54 age group:

Men - 3,247 (3pc)

Women - 878 (0.8pc)

55 plus age group:

Men - 926 (0.6pc)

Women - 443 (0.3pc)

In the UK, in 2015 there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths (around 14 per 100,000 people). The mortality rates were highest among people aged 55-64.

In England, there are an estimated 595,000 dependent drinkers, of whom only around 100,000 are currently accessing treatment.

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