People who took part in Devon’s Drink Wise, Age Well programme cut the average amount of alcohol they drink on a typical drinking day by half from 15 units to 7. They also reported reducing the number of drinking days per month from 28 at initial assessment to 13 upon discharge from the programme.
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 79% of people surveyed drinking mainly at home alone. The most common reason older adults in Devon gave for increasing their drinking was bereavement followed by relationship problems and loss of sense of purpose (e.g. through retirement, children leaving home).
Drink Wise, Age Well Devon Locality Manager Mary Greener said, “Living in Devon has many benefits, but also significant challenges for people who may live in isolated areas with poor public transport. This becomes more difficult as we age and experience mobility issues.
“Seeking help for an alcohol problem can be difficult – people are often ashamed or embarrassed, keep their drinking a secret and if this is compounded by having difficulty getting to where services are located, this exacerbates the problem.
“We work hard to minimise the stigma and shame around seeking help and as far as we possibly can use a range of community facilities to take our service to local areas rather than expecting people to come to us. We are now working with a range of local community groups to try to ensure that much of the support we provide will continue once our service has come to an end.”
Drink Wise, Age Well Devon 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 engagement, with Devon running a range of support groups and social activities for the over 50s that could become self-sustaining.
Mary Greener 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.”
For further information on Drink Wise, Age Well, visit www.drinkwiseagewell.org.uk