Senior Citizens

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For many, gambling is a fun activity, but for those who become addicted to gambling, it is a devastating disease. Problem gambling is a hidden illness and it is even more so for the older adult.1

According to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, “there will be approximately 15 million Americans ages 65 and older living alone by 2020. As a result, many elders may turn to gambling, not only as a social and entertainment activity, but also as a means of trying to deal with the loss, the grief, and the time.”

Many seniors choose to gamble, even if they have never gambled before or have only done so in a limited way. Legalized gambling has expanded quickly and dramatically in recent years, and most people – including seniors – are unaware of the potential for adverse consequences. They are often confused about their own behaviors, embarrassed that they cannot control their urges to gamble and reluctant to seek help because they think that “at their age they should know better.” And even if they recognize that they have a problem, they may not know that help is available or where to get it.1

Why are Senior Citizens more susceptible to gambling problems?

  • More free time and/or can become bored and lonely2
  • Lack alternative activities2
  • Coping with big changes or losses (i.e. death of loved ones, end of career, or isolation from family and friends) some turn to gambling1
  • Trying to escape from mental or physical conditions or limitations2
  • Gambling creates excitement and allows them to take some risk1
  • Compensating for a limited retirement income1
  • Lonely or socially isolated (Casinos present a social atmosphere)1
  • Receive offers of free buses and organized trips to go to local casinos2
  • Feel safe at the casinos since they have guards 24/73
  • May be under stimulated and the casino environment, with all of the bells, whistles, and vivid colors can provide create the excitement they are seeking1
  • Experience an “it’s my turn” feeling without family members present to make demands on their time and energy3

Additional Dangers of Senior Citizens’ Gambling

  • Gambling away retirement savings and don’t have working years to make up for losses
  • May not understand addiction, making it less likely to identify a gambling problem
  • Often less willing to seek assistance
  • Hide their gambling because of the stigma associated with it
  • Health professionals rarely assess for problem gambling
  • Have easy access to gambling and are drawn to fill their time or to be with other people
  • May have a cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions4

Indications that Senior Citizens may have a Gambling Problem:

  • Preoccupation with gambling
  • Withdrawing from family, friends or regular activities because of gambling
  • Neglecting personal needs or health due to gambling
  • Gambling larger amounts of money to experience the thrill
  • Gambling more than planned (exceeding the “betting limit”)
  • Gambling alone or gambling more often4
  • Lying about gambling habits4
  • Experiencing unaccounted blocks of time due to gambling
  • Communicating a sudden need for money or loans
  • Uncomfortable feelings or lying when questioned about gambling habits
  • Gambling to calm nerves, forget worries or reduce depression
  • Experiencing mood swings as a result of wins and losses
  • Pawning or selling personal items
  • Feeling restless or having anxiety when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  • Talking about, thinking about, or planning to gamble and not doing other activities4
  • Losing interest in food5
  • Talks only about wins, not loses4
  • Using retirement funds or other savings to gamble2
  • Changes in normal communication with family members1
  • Paying bills late1
  • Frequent illness due to failure to buy needed medication1

Gambling Games Seniors Might Play

  • Keno
  • Slots
  • Cards
  • Dog/Horse Track Racing
  • Bingo
  • Lottery
  • Sports Betting
  • Stock Market
  • Sweepstakes
  • Internet Gambling5

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