More and more seniors struggle with gambling addiction, including in the form of casino gambling in Atlantic City, online gambling at home or another form of betting, every day. Over the years, the retiree demographic has grown tremendously due to improvements in healthcare. The rate of seniors with gambling addiction has also increased and continues to rise.
At the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, we understand that anyone can develop an addiction. We have dedicated ourselves to spreading awareness of the nature of addiction and to providing resources and support for people who need help with their gambling problem and their loved ones.
To that end, we would like to share some of the risks and warning signs that older adults may display in respect to gambling addiction. Disordered gamblers often carry a great amount of shame. This applies doubly to such gamblers over the age of 65. For them, recovery may mean confronting their behavior with the help of friends and their own adult children. In all cases of gambling addiction, but even more so in the cases of elderly disordered gamblers, the goal must be support, not shame.
Has an elderly loved one asked you or someone else for a loan recently? The elderly often have a certain amount of savings or assets that they have built up over their lifetime. This gives them additional resources to draw upon when gambling. In the cases of disordered gamblers, they may keep drawing from their savings until they find themselves in debt.
Have you noticed that the senior in your life a begun to neglect their hygiene? Perhaps they no longer take part in hobbies or organizations that they used to enjoy. Though these signs can indicate other issues, they may also point to problem gambling.
As adults age and eventually retire, they encounter new challenges. A person’s social life can drastically diminish upon retirement, for example. The welcoming sights and sounds of casinos can draw the elderly as they seek to distract themselves from boredom, loneliness, and sadness. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with casinos or gambling in general, people may turn to gambling as an emotional refuge. Seniors are particularly vulnerable in this respect.
Only recently, medical science discovered that certain medications for Parkinson’s disease incidentally caused patients to experience difficulty with impulse control. Patients with these prescriptions became more prone to addictions of all kinds due to secondary psychological side effects. As the medical understanding of addiction deepens, we learn more and more about how not only drugs but also cognitive impairments or disorders in general can make people vulnerable to addictive behaviors.
Additionally, seniors are more likely to suffer from chronic pain and other conditions not easily treated. Gambling, for a time, can provide an escape from these conditions for a while.
“Anyone can struggle with addiction, no matter where they are in life,” says Neva Pryor, Executive Director of the CCGNJ. “Know the signs and understand the risks. If the elderly person in your life starts to exhibit signs of gambling addiction, express your concern and support.”
The CCGNJ provides numerous resources for people of any age struggling with disordered gambling. We seek to provide support, treatment, and hope not only them but also to their loved ones. As always, our hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER, operates 24/7 and remains completely confidential. Alternatively, visit us at our website, https://800gambler.org/, to learn more.