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

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

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

:00:22.:00:28.

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

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

:00:33.:00:37.

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

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

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admissions of our older drinkers are significantly on the rise.

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

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and more are now coming through, particularly in the older

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population. That is causing real health problems. We revealed

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research which shows that raising alcohol prices could save the lives

:01:03.:01:07.

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

:01:07.:01:10.

people drinking problematically in old age.

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

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

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:01:32.:01:46.

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

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

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

:01:55.:01:59.

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

:01:59.:02:04.

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

:02:04.:02:14.
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its risks. But there is social drinking, too. As members of the

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Fitzroy social club from Manchester appreciate. They believed yngling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:03:31.:03:35.

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

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

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

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

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

:03:58.:04:06.

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

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

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

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having my dinner, and another couple of glasses while watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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around four times the government recommended limit for women. Would

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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my lifetime, alcohol has become increasingly accepted as part of

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work, friendship, family celebrations. Then along came the

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

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

:07:43.:07:53.
:07:53.:07:57.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:09:02.:09:07.

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

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

:09:12.:09:18.

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

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

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

:09:27.:09:33.

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

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

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

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

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

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frequently take medication, and alcohol-medication interactions can

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

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According to the Alzheimer's Society, excessive alcohol over

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long periods increases the risk of developing a dementia-like

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condition. Moreover, recent research suggests that even

:10:16.:10:20.

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

:10:20.:10:29.

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

:10:29.:10:33.

small protective effects of very small levels of alcohol consumption.

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But that is debated and questionable at the moment. The

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reality is that dementia increases with the amount of alcohol you

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consume. Particularly with older people, people can confuse the

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

:10:51.:10:56.

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

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

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

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

:11:11.:11:21.
:11:21.:11:21.

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

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

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- with sometimes frightening clarity. It really is quite painful

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

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

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

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

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

:12:02.:12:07.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:14:30.:14:40.
:14:40.:14:42.

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

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injuries amongst pensioners caused by drinking. There has been an

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

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Hampshire Primary Care Trust has the highest number of hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are concerned about liver dysfunction, manifestations of a

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

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

:16:36.:16:40.

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

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

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

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

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

:17:06.:17:16.
:17:16.:17:16.

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

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elderly people referred to the special alcohol service were in the

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

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

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

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

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:17:54.:17:54.

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

:17:54.:17:59.

We think of the very visible social disorder consequences of young

:17:59.:18:05.

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

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

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

:18:13.:18:23.

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

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

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Recent research suggests they should be halved for older people

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

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

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

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

:18:56.:19:01.

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

:19:01.:19:07.

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

:19:07.:19:12.

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

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

:19:21.:19:26.

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

:19:26.:19:31.

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

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

:19:36.:19:40.

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

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

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

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

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

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

:20:09.:20:15.

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

:20:15.:20:19.

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

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

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

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

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

:20:45.:20:49.

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

:20:49.:20:53.

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

:20:53.:20:57.

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

:20:57.:21:05.

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

:21:05.:21:09.

someone who is neither isolated or lonely develops a drinking problem

:21:09.:21:19.
:21:19.:21:20.

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

:21:20.:21:25.

fine. # Stuart loved his job working in a

:21:25.:21:32.

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

:21:32.:21:42.
:21:42.:21:44.

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

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

:21:48.:21:54.

as an elder at Glasgow Cathedral, hosting visiting dignitaries such

:21:54.:21:59.

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

:21:59.:22:04.

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

:22:04.:22:11.

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

:22:11.:22:15.

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

:22:16.:22:20.

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

:22:20.:22:25.

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

:22:25.:22:29.

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

:22:29.:22:34.

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

:22:35.:22:38.

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

:22:39.:22:45.

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

:22:45.:22:54.

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

:22:54.:23:03.

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

:23:03.:23:08.

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

:23:08.:23:14.

you a lot about the person. Sometimes people underreport

:23:14.:23:20.

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

:23:20.:23:25.

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

:23:25.:23:30.

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

:23:30.:23:35.

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

:23:35.:23:38.

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

:23:38.:23:46.

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

:23:46.:23:50.

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

:23:50.:23:56.

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

:23:56.:24:01.

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

:24:01.:24:08.

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

:24:08.:24:18.
:24:18.:24:19.

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

:24:19.:24:25.

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

:24:25.:24:31.

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

:24:31.:24:38.

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

:24:38.:24:44.

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

:24:44.:24:48.

become the first country in the European Union to introduce a

:24:48.:24:55.

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

:24:55.:25:00.

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

:25:00.:25:03.

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

:25:03.:25:07.

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

:25:07.:25:13.

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

:25:13.:25:22.

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

:25:22.:25:26.

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

:25:26.:25:30.

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

:25:30.:25:34.

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

:25:34.:25:38.

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

:25:38.:25:44.

at all from minimum pricing. Minimum pricing is being challenged

:25:44.:25:54.
:25:54.:25:57.

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

:25:57.:26:01.

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

:26:01.:26:06.

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

:26:06.:26:10.

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

:26:10.:26:13.

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

:26:14.:26:21.

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

:26:21.:26:25.

statisticians to do some number crunching for Panorama. They

:26:25.:26:28.

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

:26:28.:26:33.

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

:26:33.:26:42.

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

:26:42.:26:50.

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

:26:50.:26:57.

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

:26:57.:27:00.

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

:27:01.:27:04.

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

:27:04.:27:09.

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

:27:09.:27:19.
:27:19.:27:21.

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

:27:21.:27:28.

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

:27:28.:27:34.

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

:27:34.:27:38.

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

:27:38.:27:46.

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

:27:46.:27:51.

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

:27:52.:28:01.
:28:02.:28:03.

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

:28:03.:28:06.

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

:28:06.:28:11.

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

:28:11.:28:15.

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

:28:16.:28:25.
:28:26.:28:28.

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

:28:28.:28:35.

estate. Causing trouble. With families, police and undercover

:28:36.:28:39.

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

:28:39.:28:43.

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