Washington, DC – Gambling has become a popular activity for people of many ages – and seniors are no exceptions. Like the rest of the population, most older adults can enjoy gambling as a form of recreation and social engagement. However, others may become problem gamblers.
Problem gambling, also known as gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, is defined as the urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. It’s estimated that 1-4 percent of the population is at risk for developing gambling problems. Virtually anyone – men or women, young or old, from every religion, race and socio-economic background – can be at risk for developing a gambling problem. They can play the horses, slots, the lottery, pull-tabs, cards and bingo.
Older adults are at particular risk for developing gambling addiction. Their gambling behavior differs from gambling in younger age groups for a variety of reasons:
• When people are coping with big changes or losses they are more vulnerable to developing a gambling problem; many older adults face life transitions and losses, such as death of loved ones, end of career or isolation from family and friends.
• Older adults who have gambled away their retirement savings don’t have working years to make up their losses.
• Many older adults may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem.
• Older adults appear less willing to seek assistance for a gambling problem than younger adults.
• Many older adults hide their gambling because of the stigma associated with it and health professionals rarely assess for problem gambling.
• Many older adults have easy access to gambling and are drawn to gambling to fill their time or to be with other people.
• Some older adults may have cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions.
The good news about gambling addiction is that treatment is effective, and recovery is real and attainable. This can make a significant impact on the lives of gamblers and families who are affected by their addictions.
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has established a national helpline to assist those who are concerned about their gambling habits. The helpline number is 1-800-522-4700 and is available 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.
The NCPG is the national advocate for programs and services to assist problem gamblers and their families. The mission of the NCPG is to
increase public awareness of pathological gambling, ensure the widespread
availability of treatment for problem gamblers and their families, and to
encourage research and programs for prevention and education.
Visit www.ncpgambling.org for more information.