Older adults cut drinking in half with Sheffield-based programme

Posted 04.04.2019

People who took part in Sheffield’s Drink Wise, Age Well programme  cut the average amount of alcohol they drink on a typical day in half from 14 units to 7.

At a follow up interview, six months after being discharged from the project, participants for the most part maintained this reduction.

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 for alcohol problems.

The new data also shows how many of the programme participants struggled with isolation and loneliness, with 74% of people surveyed drinking mainly at home alone. The most common reason older adults in Sheffield gave for increasing their drinking was relationship problems followed by loss of sense of purpose (e.g. through retirement, children leaving home) and bereavement.

Drink Wise, Age Well Sheffield  Locality Manager, Emma Wells said, “We have reached a large number of people aged over 50 across Sheffield, many of whom have benefited not just from our health and well-being activities, but also the chance to access information about how alcohol can affect us as we age and explore ways to reduce consumption.

“None of this would have been possible without our volunteers, who design and lead many of our activities. 83% of people attending our social groups said they feel better in themselves as a result. This further highlights the positives that can be gained from activities which bring people together in an informal and friendly setting and enable new friendships and skills to emerge”.

Drink Wise, Age Well Sheffield 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 Sheffield running a range of support groups and social activities for the over 50s that could become self-sustaining.

Emma Wells 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.”