Older adults cut drinking days in half with Glasgow-based programme

Posted 04.04.2019

People who took part in Glasgow’s Drink Wise, Age Well programme cut the number of days they drank in the previous month from 15 to 8, according to data released by the programme.

At a follow up session, six months after being discharged from the project, participants reported the average number of drinking days in the last 28 days was nine. This is slightly up from the number reported at discharge, but still significantly below the level reported at initial assessment.

The National  Lottery Community funded programme was first established in 2015 in response to 1increasing alcohol harm in the over 50s,  with initial research showing that older adults were facing particular challenges when trying to get help with alcohol problems.

The new data also shows how many of the programme participants struggled with isolation and loneliness, with 82% of people surveyed drinking mainly at home alone. The most common reason older adults in Glasgow gave for increasing their drinking was bereavement followed by loss of sense of purpose (e.g. through retirement, children leaving home) and relationship problems.

Drink Wise, Age Well Glasgow Locality Manager, Graeme Callander said, “It’s no secret that Scotland has a dreadful record for alcohol harm with latest figures showing that the over 50s are increasingly at risk. Our programme is showing that providing services tailored to this age-group is having a tremendous effect and we’d like to see it continue.

“Our peer support meetings are a great source of inspiration to participants and the social activities result in people noticing a marked increase in their emotional health and sense of purpose. Importantly, all these activities result in a reduction in people’s drinking and – for those who we followed up with – that that was maintained six months later.”

Drink Wise, Age Well Glasgow is now into its final year of operation (until 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. The programme has also provided clear testimony to community empowerment, with Glasgow running a range of support groups and social activities for the over 50s that could become self-sustaining.

Graeme Callander added, “Alcohol use and harm is increasing in our older population and it is crucial that we have a targeted approach to this. Whilst ensuring that alcohol treatment and support is accessible to people of all ages, it is also important to explore the underlying reasons for drinking including isolation and life transitions. The holistic approach of our programme has allowed us to address the problem while working with people to build their own resilience and connections within their communities.”