May is Older Americans Month; it’s a great time to reflect on the wonderful contributions older Americans have on our society. As we reflect on this wonderful group of Americans, we also want to assist them in living the healthiest lives possible. Whether you consider yourself an older American or not, we all know someone who is, and older Americans are at greater risk for experiencing problems due to their gambling.
Often, older Americans gamble to escape feelings like boredom, loneliness, and fear. They could be bored because they’re no longer working, which may lead to feeling a lack of purpose in their life. They may feel lonely because many of the people they loved throughout their lives are no longer here with them. And they may be facing the reality that their life is soon coming to a close, and that may bring about a feeling of fear, or even regret. All of these different feelings may result in a need to escape their thoughts, and sometimes gambling is their choice.
Older Americans often gamble to escape feelings like boredom, loneliness, and fear.
It’s very easy for an older American to engage in gambling activities. From the local store for lottery and scratch-off tickets, to bingo nights and senior trips to casinos, gambling opportunities are everywhere. This increased availability may also lead those with excess income or savings to gamble more often. Conversely, those aging Americans who wish they had more may attend gambling activities with the unrealistic hopes of gaining more income.
All of the above statements are reasons to look out for our loved older Americans, and try to assist them in living the healthiest lives possible. Although many older Americans gamble responsibly, we want to keep a keen eye out for those who are finding problems with their gambling.
Warning signs to be aware of:
- Gambling at beginning of month (corresponding with social security and pension check deposits).
- Declining, or hesitating, to attend local family events or celebrations.
- Neglecting car or home repairs.
- Neglecting bills (such as telephone, utilities, and rent).
- Disinterest in old friendships.
- Secrecy or double-talk about extent of trips to casinos, bingo parlors, etc.
- Assets disappearing (such as jewelry, heirlooms, or silverware).
- Unaccounted time away from home.
- Unexplained moodiness, depression, preoccupations, stresses, or worries.
If you believe you, or someone you love, may be struggling with problem gambling, call the New York State HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369). They will work with you to get you the help you need.
If you don’t believe the older Americans in your life are struggling with problem gambling, but want to offer some helpful pointers, below you’ll find a list of guidelines for responsible gambling. Have the conversation with your loved ones to help make sure they’re gambling for the entertainment, and not for unhealthy reasons.
Guidelines of Responsible Gambling:
- Be prepared to lose.
- Set money and time limits, and stick to them.
- Do not borrow to gamble.
- Treat the money you lose as the cost of your entertainment.
- Avoid “chasing” lost money (gambling more to try to win back losses).
- Don’t gamble as a way to cope with emotional or physical pain.
- Gambling should not interfere with, or substitute for, friends, family, work, or other worthwhile activities.
Enjoy Older Americans Month with the people you know and love, and help educate them and those around them, to live as long and happy as possible!