Senior Citizens and Problem Gambling Posted On

It’s the final week of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, which is a time we hope you’ve spent helping raise awareness of problem gambling by having simple conversations with family, friends, and anyone else you feel comfortable speaking with.  The fifth and final week will be focused on raising awareness of problem gambling for senior citizens.  

Seniors may be confused or too embarrassed to ask for help.

Seniors are gambling in record numbers.  They may be living with extra time on their hands since they may no longer be working, and, if they had children, their children are out of the house building a life for themselves.  They may be living on a fixed budget with limited funds, or have an excess of saved money, but, either way, may not be aware of the potential for problems with gambling.  Many seniors who experience problems with gambling, they may be confused, or too embarrassed, to ask for help.  This leaves seniors as a special population at risk for problem gambling, and a special population has specific risk factors.

Here are some problem gambling risk factors that are specific to seniors:

  • Seniors may be experiencing boredom and loneliness because of a lack of socialization due to minimal or no employment, family members (i.e. siblings or children and grandchildren) moving away, and lifelong friends and family members moving or passing away.  
  • They may be feeling grief as these loved ones, who they’ve relied on their whole lives for love and support, are disappearing due to passing away.  
  • They may be struggling with relocation.  They may be moving out of a home and town they spent a majority of their adult life in, building the life that is slowly disappearing (i.e. family, career, friends, and local establishments).
  • They may be grieving over a loss of independence because of increasing physical limitations that put them in need of constant care.
  • They may be struggling to cope with the stress associated with all of these life changes they are faced with, especially with the fear of death, which may seem to be all around them.  
  • Basically, they may feel as though their life as they knew it is slowly disappearing.  A great video that successfully outlines many of these risk factors is Empty Spaces.

The above listed and highlighted risk factors are extremely prominent in the lives of our seniors.  So, when they begin participating in gambling activities, the gambling may be filling in the missing pieces of independence, social interaction, emotional escape, and excitement that their missing.  The path of problem gambling can seem to sneak up on you.

Your senior parent or friend may be experiencing problem gambling.

Signs of senior problem gambling to look for:

  • Experience mood swings based on winnings and losses?
  • Neglect other responsibilities in order to concentrate on gambling activities?
  • Display impatience because their gambling has been interrupted?
  • Eat less or go without food so that they can gamble?
  • Gamble with money designated for necessary expenses such as household supplies, groceries, medications, electricity and telephone?
  • Gambled using retirement funds?
  • Gambling as a means to cope?
  • Experience the unexplained absence of household or personal items?
  • Gambling in spite of negative consequences, such as large losses or family problems?

You can help to educate and be aware of problem gambling for seniors.

Have a conversation with the seniors in your life.  Ask them how they’re doing, and what they’re doing for fun.  Pay more attention to their activities, how they talk, and any changes in their behavior.  Remember that problem gambling is a hidden addiction.  Just because you can’t see or smell it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Click HERE for more videos on talking with someone about problem gambling.  If you or a loved one are struggling with problem gambling, reach out to the HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (or 1-877-846-7369)