Participants in a project aimed at helping older people reduce their alcohol intake, has seen them cut down their drinking by two thirds.
People who took part in the Drink Wise, Age Well programme in the Western Trust area cut the average amount of alcohol they drink on a typical day from 21 units to 7.
At a follow up interview, six months after being discharged from the project, participants had maintained this reduction.
Participants also reported reducing the number of drinking days per month between initial assessment and discharge from the programme, from 14 to seven.
The National Lottery Community funded programme was first established in 2015 in response to increasing alcohol harm in the over 50s, with initial research showing that older adults were facing particular challenges when trying to get help for alcohol problems.
The new data also shows how many of the programme participants struggled with isolation and loneliness, with 68 per cent of people surveyed drinking mainly at home alone.
The most common reason older adults in the Western Trust area gave for increasing their drinking was bereavement followed by relationship problems. Some also said they had “always drunk this way”.
Adrian Loughrey, Locality Manager for Drink Wise, Age Well in the Western Trust area, said: “Our experience of delivering the programme over the past four years has shown that significant numbers of over 50s are drinking to harmful levels, but may be reluctant to get help due to stigma.
“We have been very successful in engaging with people through a range of health and well-being activities that help tackle loneliness and isolation,and have worked hard to earn the trust of individuals and families in the Western Trust area to encourage them to come forward for one-to-one support.”
Drink Wise, Age Well is now into its final year of operation and ends in March 2020, but it is hoped that the most effective elements of the programme will carry on through being embedded in general alcohol services or, where required, the development of age-specific services.
It will stage a Health Festival in the Derry area in September and a programme of social connectedness activities across the Western Trust area, which is running again now due to popular demand.
Figures for Drink Wise, Age Well in the Western Trust area up to September 2018 show that it has provided one-to-one support to 186 individuals, of whom 52 per cent were women.
They also supported a further 41 family members who were concerned about a loved one’s drinking, and supported 106 people at Mutual Aid Partnership (peer support) meetings.
A total of 2,812 people were involved in resilience activities, including the successful social connectedness programme, other well-being activities and events.
For further information on Drink Wise, Age Well, visit www.drinkwiseagewell.org.uk