Old, Drunk and Disorderly? Panorama

Old, Drunk and Disorderly?

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Britain's health is threatened by a hidden drinking epidemic. But these


drinkers are not the usual suspects. We do say you are in control of


your drinking? I don't think so. If I don't buy wine and the house is


empty, I get desperate for a drink in the evening. An estimated 1.4


million over-65ss are drinking too much. That is my age group, my peer


group. It's would be panic stations, because I suddenly realised I did


not have enough vodka to last me through the day. His hospital


admissions of our older drinkers are significantly on the rise.


many of the long-term conditions that build up as people drink more


and more are now coming through, particularly in the older


population. That is causing real health problems. We revealed


research which shows that raising alcohol prices could save the lives


of 50,000 pensioners. We might be on the cusp of an epidemic of


people drinking problematically in old age.


But hang on - growing old is no fun. Shouldn't people stop telling us


oldies what to do? The old are drinking more than they should it?


Last year, there were more hospital admissions for alcohol-related


injuries and illness among the over 65s than among the 16 to 24-year-


olds. How surprising is that? And older people have different


drinking patterns. They are more likely to drink every day, more


likely to drink at home, more likely to drink alone. And each has


its risks. But there is social drinking, too. As members of the


Fitzroy social club from Manchester appreciate. They believed yngling


is best shared with friends. Today, we are all off on an outing to the


seaside. So what is their attitude to drink? When I have had a few


drinks, I like to dance. Just have a couple to get your adrenalin


going. It is no use sitting at home on your own. To day more than 100


people have turned out. A lively time for old friends, and for


making new ones. If first stop, good old English breakfast.


generation, women didn't go into pubs and clubs on their own. But


after my husband died, after a few weeks, I decided to. A quick cuppa


now, but as we will see, something stronger later. Old age is meant to


be full of good things - grandchildren, the chance to enjoy


retirement, friendship, good company, all the rewards of a long


working life. It is like that for many of us. But for some, it isn't.


In Dorset, Barbara lives alone, and her days are not filled with good


times. She has recognised that she has a drink problem. I always drink


red wine, because it is good for you. It is teatime, and 73-year-old


Barbara has just cracked open a bottle for her first drink of the


day. I really look forward to it. I have a couple of glasses while I am


having my dinner, and another couple of glasses while watching


the film. Barbara drinks up to a bottle a day. And moreover 65s than


any other age group are drinking six to seven days a week. 5th 16%


of them drink alcohol almost every day, compared with 40% of the 16-24


age group. Barbara and her second husband Bob were all set to grow


old together. They moved to France to enjoy their retirement.


friends we made were mostly ex pats, and we found that most expats drank


a lot. Everybody seemed to drink. 4 o'clock was around the time that


you would have your first glass of wine. A few years ago, they moved


back to Britain, and then Bob became ill. Barbara nursed him for


two years before he died of cancer. Distraught and alone, it was then


that her drinking spiralled. I was very depressed, very sad, bereft,


really. I began to drink when he was ill to try and calm myself and


suit myself. I used to just drink and drink. Barbara is drinking


around four times the government recommended limit for women. Would


you say you are in control of your drinking? I don't think so. No. I


find that if I don't buy wine and the house is empty, I get desperate


for a drink in the evening and I will go out and buy a bottle of


wine. So I guess it is not in control, really. Loneliness drove


Barbara to drink, and there are many more like her. Social


isolation affects about 1 million older people. We know that old age


can be a stressful time for some older people. They might experience


multiple bereavement. They may have a shrinking social network. That


can cause a small amount of daily drinking, the one drink every day,


to escalate. And some older people developed alcohol problems for the


first time in old age. But it is not always obvious to friends and


family. We drink less in pubs, and in many respects, that he been


drinking at home can be some of the most dangerous, because we don't


know how much people are drinking, it is not regulated in any way, and


the harm is built up as people drink more each night. Barbara's


feisty and resilient. She knows she is drinking too much. She has


sought help from a counsellor, and is now off travelling. Throughout


my lifetime, alcohol has become increasingly accepted as part of


work, friendship, family celebrations. Then along came the


baby boomers, and they joined in. Many of us, including me here, have


been drinking alcohol all our lives. It may come as a surprise to tot up


just how much we are drinking. That is why I signed up to keep a


drinking diary for the next four weeks. Honest, certainly. Reckless,


possibly. It is the first day of my drinking diary. It is the weekend,


and does lunchtime. So, first glass of wine. Great. I went out to


dinner tonight. I was looking forward to it and intended to drink,


and I did. We had a bottle of red wine between us. It was delicious.


That is quite a large glass. When I do my drinking at home and I keep


my drinking diary, I would call that a large glass. We are doing a


drinking film. How many is this that you have had? Cut!


Just how much do I drink? I will find out later. We oldies don't


like being told what to do it. And frankly, as we are coming to the


end of our lives, why worry anyway? We are told not to exceed certain


units, but most of us are run clear run exactly what a unit is. And


many of us are old people don't much care. However, it is probably


less than you think. To be clear, a unit is a single measure of whisky,


a third of a pint of beer, or half a standard glass of red wine. The


Government advises people to drink no more than two to three units if


you are a woman, or three to four units if you are a man. Some think


the oldies should drink even less than that. When somebody ages, they


have less water in their body. They will have more of an effect from


that alcohol than if they were younger. We know they are more


likely to fall when under the influence of alcohol. Older people


frequently take medication, and alcohol-medication interactions can


be harmful. And there is an even more alarming consideration.


According to the Alzheimer's Society, excessive alcohol over


long periods increases the risk of developing a dementia-like


condition. Moreover, recent research suggests that even


moderate alcohol use in late life can increase the risk of cognitive


decline. People have talked about dementia, in that there may be


small protective effects of very small levels of alcohol consumption.


But that is debated and questionable at the moment. The


reality is that dementia increases with the amount of alcohol you


consume. Particularly with older people, people can confuse the


effects of alcohol on a person with the simple ageing process. Drink


has certainly had a catastrophic impact on Chris's health. The


former university lecturer started out as a social drinker, but ended


up in a wheelchair. Today, he is leaving a residential rehab unit in


Truro, where after 12 weeks, he seems to have stepped back from the


brink. Cheers, mate. At his worst, he was drinking a bottle of vodka a


day or more. I see what happened before was sometimes frighten ing -


- with sometimes frightening clarity. It really is quite painful


sometimes. He has been through detox once before, and is hoping


this latest stay, which he has partly paid for, will finally give


him the resolve to beat his addiction. Chris's drinking became


a severe problem once he took early retirement. You had a job in which


you exercise due intelligence, so when did your intelligence tell you


that things had gone too far? knew at the time that I was making


a mess of things. I really didn't care very much on a lot of


occasions. I said, to hell with it, and just carried on. I thought to


myself, I have done my bit by family. I have done my bit


teaching-wise. I am just going to slide into retirement and enjoy


myself. But he didn't enjoy it at all. He didn't slide into


retirement, but fell into the bottle. So what comfort was the


drink? Obliteration. It was far easier just to drink a couple of


slugs of vodka and turn the television on. If it was raining,


that was a good excuse not to go out. A month gone by, and Chris is


back for his weekly therapy with other recovering alcoholics. I am


Chris. I have been at home now for five weeks, and I have been dry for


six months. I am care. I have had a good week. I still have five weeks


to go. Today, the group is listing all the positive things about being


sober. It is lovely to drive my car now without being drunk. It is a


great feeling. What outlook do you have to growing old now? I might


have five or ten years, despite the abuse as I have subjected my body


to. I am looking forward to doing some more computing and keeping my


brain as active as I possibly can. If he is ever tempted to relapse


again, his medical records are a sharp reminder of just how low for


the drink brought him. Reading them with me, Chris can hardly remember


his various crises. At no, I don't remember that at all. I was either


going into hospital or being committed. "talks about his stay in


hospital, which made him feel safe. Wants to go back because he knows


he might get better their". Did you feel safer in hospital? Very much


so. Because I was amongst people, Hospitals are dealing with more


injuries amongst pensioners caused by drinking. There has been an


increase in alcohol-related admissions for the over 65s.


Hampshire Primary Care Trust has the highest number of hospital


admissions in England for alcohol- related problems for the over 65s.


That is why I'm here in Portsmouth. This hospital was so concerned


about the levels of alcohol abuse in the area it drafted in expert


Richard Aspinall and a team of four specialist nurses. One individual


had attended hundred times in the last year. He had been to the


casualty department. Drunk? Yes. And was effectively using the


hospital as a drop-in centre. We were able to make a massive impact


and sort of turn people's lives around. There is a lot we can do.


Brian was a regular. A big deep breath in. He was often in-and-out


of the casualty department in Portsmouth dead drunk. I think I


was in this hospital more times drying out than I don't know who. I


actually thought they were going to name a ward after me because I had


been in that many times! How much were you drink something Up to two


bottles of vodka a day. After intensive support from the alcohol


team, he has turned his life around. He's been two years dry. There is


still a legacy of ill-health. Today, he is having his liver checked.


are concerned about liver dysfunction, manifestations of a


fatty liver, or cirrhosis. That is what we are looking for. The liver


has remarkable healing powers. And Brian is relieved his is now


healthy. As a nation, we are drinking slightly less than we were


ten years ago, but liver disease is the only major cause of death still


increasing year on year. When the team audited its first thousand


patients, it was shocked by threfl of alcohol intake. There was an


intake of over 200 units. The highest weekly intake was over 700


units in the preceding week. Last year, more than half, 57%, of


elderly people referred to the special alcohol service were in the


high-risk or severe dependency categories. Brian was one of the


most extreme cases. Some mornings I couldn't walk, I was crawling along


the floor just to get to the toilet. And then getting on to it, it was a


nightmare, you know what I mean? For over 65s, hospital admissions


for liver disease have risen by almost 50% in the last five years.


We think of the very visible social disorder consequences of young


people binge drinking on a Saturday night in our town centres. What is


more hidden is quiet, below the radar drinking at home. It is easy


for people to drink more than they are aware of, you know, to get


above the safe limits. In fact, according to the Royal College of


Psychiatrists, those current safe limits are too high for us oldies.


Recent research suggests they should be halved for older people


to just one-and-a-half units a day. Is that realistic?


# Bring me sunshine. # I'm back with the Fitzroy Social


Club. It is lunch time and we are off to the pub. We are going into


the working men's club where we will all have a drink. To get the


fun started, a free drink for all the members. A drink each at this


club. It says a pint, but it is whatever you want.


# Bring me fun... # For the daytrippers, it is a chance


to quench their thirst. I'm drinking wine. Why wine? I only


have a drink on a Sunday evening when we go out or if I have the


family around for a meal. How much do you drink every day? Four pints,


five pints, probably. Every day? Yeah. How much do you drink a day?


I have two brandys every day. According to the hospital, I


shouldn't be drinking that. I said, "Would you like me to stop


breathing?" LAUGHTER I'm a whisky drinker. How much do you drink?


not saying! I don't think I have come home ever rolling drunk! I


might have been tipsy! So, back to my own drinking diary. It's been a


busy four weeks, making this programme, socialising with friends,


and holidaying with the family. LAUGHTER Come on, drink up!


drinking at lunch time. But then we are on holiday. That's what people


do! I have a glass of wine, that's what I have, and a second one


occasionally. That is about it. It is every day. I have come in and it


is quite late and I have helped myself to a glass of liqueur - not


what I usually do. This programme is making me feel guilty! I'm


inclined to agree with those who say, "Leave us alone and let us


enjoy the pleasures of old age" but I'm learning there is a distinction


between social drinking and addiction and how, in old age, it


is easier to slip from one to the other. What's surprising is when


someone who is neither isolated or lonely develops a drinking problem


late in life. But it can happen. # She's in love with me and I feel


fine. # Stuart loved his job working in a


kilt shop in Glasgow. Without it, he suddenly felt unimportant.


just felt that I was past my sell- by date. It was very, very hurtful,


very hurtful. Remember that? Yes. Stewart had an active social life


as an elder at Glasgow Cathedral, hosting visiting dignitaries such


as Princess Margaret. He and Bill were happy celebrating their civil


partnership in 2006. It was Bill who realised there was a problem.


noticed a change in his actual appearance. He started to lose


interest at keeping himself tidy. We had a healthy stock of red-and-


white wine and that was going down. What was happening was it was being


drunk but being filled with water and was being put back on the racks.


The drinking culminated in a series of bad falls, in public, and at


home. I found him in the back bedroom lying on the floor. He had


fallen down in some way, hit his head and was bleeding from the nose


and the mouth. He had suffered a brain haemorrhage. But with the


help of the charity Add Action, he and Bill are slowly rebuilding


their lives. Anne Morgan is one of the outreach workers. We knock


doors, we come in, we see people in their own environment which tells


you a lot about the person. Sometimes people underreport


because of a sense of shame. I know. It was dreadful. Stewart gave us a


picture and Bill gave us a bigger picture and we realised there had


been quite an extensive period, long period, of overdrinking and


problem drinking. I thought we might try that... This project's


funding is under threat, but for now Anne is reintroducing Stewart


to the things he loves. There's things to reconnect you with your


wonderful creativity. We'll get a wee thing that looks like a


programme. Right. Getting old is tough. You are nearing the end. You


are no longer the centre of things. The fulfilment of young family and


careers are gone. Some of us, like the people I have met in this film,


may seek solace in drink only to find we can't do without it. It may


not seem like it, but today alcohol is almost 50% more affordable than


it was 30 years ago. Even on a pension, it's moved from being a


luxury to an everyday item. And nowhere in the UK is cheap booze


seen as a bigger problem than in Scotland. Next April, it plans to


become the first country in the European Union to introduce a


minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol. The cost of the


cheapest bottle of vodka in Scottish shops is to go up from �9


to �13. Research commissioned by the Scottish Government shows that


such a price rise targets those with a taste for cheap and super-


strength booze and will have a major impact on the over 65s. That


is partly because pensioners are often on a limited income. Very


cheap cider, very cheap, strong lagers, these are the alcohol


products that will increase in price most. I believe that will


have a significant impact on our overall consumption levels. If you


are a responsible drinker, you are not going to see very much impact


at all from minimum pricing. Minimum pricing is being challenged


by the Scottish Whisky I -- Scottish Whisky Association. If it


comes in, there will be 300 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland


and 6,500 fewer hospital admissions. There are too many people in the


over 65 age group who drink more than the recommended weekly limits.


The fact of the matter is, as a society, we are drinking too much


and we need to get that back into some kind of balance. We asked the


statisticians to do some number crunching for Panorama. They


estimated that if England were to follow Scotland's lead with 50


pence a unit, then, over the next decade, there could be almost


50,000 fewer alcohol-related deaths among the over 65s. And now for the


moment of truth. How did I do with my drinking diary? In July I drank


52 glasses of wine. That comes to 76 units, 20 more than the


Government guidelines. I'm really surprised I drunk so much. It is


clear I'm a regular and consistent drinker and I'm not inclined to


change my ways. However, having made this programme, I can see


there is a case for taking a short # Sweet, sweet,


# The memories you gave for me. # It's been a long and enjoyable day


at the seaside, but it's not over yet. They have come home to


Manchester where they are set to enjoy a good sing-song and


inevitably a few more drinks. plan for this evening is sitting


and enjoy the artist, play bingo and lots more drink, hopefully! Get


them tills rolling! Put your hands together, come on!


Experts say older people who give up damaging levels of drinking can


expect to add years to their lives. There is no doubt social drinking


can be one of life's pleasures as we grow older. As I have learnt


from some of those I have met, old Tomorrow at 9.00pm, trouble on the


estate. Causing trouble. With families, police and undercover


cameras, Panorama reveals what it is like to live on one of Britain's


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