Twenty per cent of over 50s are regularly exceeding the recommended limits for drinking alcohol, Derry City and Strabane District Councillors have been told.
Speaking at the health and community meeting held in Strabane on Thursday afternoon, Joanne Smith, locality manager with Addiction N.I. and Drink Wise Age Well revealed that alcohol abuse now costs £900m per year.
“And that’s not including the human cost,” she said. “217,000 people are now drinking at harmful levels and the biggest increase we have seen with this is in the over 50s.
“One in three older adults will develop problems for the first time in later life, and alcohol related harms are less likely to be detected in older people.”
Councillors were told that in the last ten years admissions to hospital due to alcohol misuse among men above the age of 50 increased by 70%. In the same period there was an increase in women aged 50 and over by 90%
Miss Smith said the over 50s are less likely to be referred to an alcohol service for treatment but stressed that when people in this age bracket are referred they are more likely to be successful.
£4.2m has been set aside for Northern Ireland to deal with the issue as part of a £25m UK wide programme funded by the Big Lottery.
It’s hoped the project will influence and inform policy and practice in preventing alcohol misuse amongst adults aged 50 and over.
Ms Smith said that the aim was to prevent alcohol misuse in the over 50s by improving health and well being.
And she said that research had shown that a one off short interaction with some one over 50 could see a reduction in drinking by 20%.
“We will also look at the impact of the Troubles and how this has affected people’s relationships with alcohol,” she said.
“We need age appropriate screening, home visits and outreach. We’ve had standalone workshops and stalls in public places.”
Drink Well Age Wise offer a help and advice line where people can phone and receive guidance on issues and refer into the service if they wish.
Local people can self refer by ringing 028 82839240 Monday – Thursday 9am -5pm and Friday 9am -3.30pm.
Ms Smith said that the minute the programme does not have a waiting list and individuals can be seen quite promptly.
“People who ring can be seen within a day or on the same day,” she said.