Over age drinking in a retirement village

Blog posted

14th September 2012

Did you catch Panorama this week? Headlined ‘Old, Drunk and Disorderly?’ it tackled the issue of alcohol abuse among the older generation and made excellent viewing.
Joan Bakewell, the government’s former voice for older people, was Panorama’s roving reporter and gave the piece extra resonance because, as Joan pointed out, she could speak from a level of personal experience of ‘someone who drinks regularly – most days, in fact’.
The programme highlighted the growing problem of drink-related illnesses among the over 65s.
Retirement does generally mean more leisure time; it also means more likelihood of grief through loss of a loved one. Other emotions and states of mind also come into play – loneliness, boredom, a lack of purpose in life. All are factors which could make drinking a welcome relief.
I have to confess that drinking is very much a part of life within our own retirement village settings. Nearly every village has its own residents’ bar which is run by a committee. It is often at the hub of social life and a meeting place to bring people together, especially widows and widowers who may feel intimidated about entering a public bar alone.
Rather than sitting at home alone, the residents’ bars, like the village function rooms and restaurants, are there to stimulate conversation, build relationships and nurture friendships and if drink has a small part to play in this, then I don’t see this being a major issue.
Like life in general, it’s everything in moderation – our villages are self-moderated by the residents themselves. Residents don’t pry but they do look out for each other. If anyone was affected longer term by the influence of alcohol it would soon be brought to someone’s attention.
I suppose that’s one of the advantages of a retirement village lifestyle – self preservation for the good of each other and the village. As we always say, we provide the bricks and mortar but it is the residents who breathe real life and joy into our villages and they will be the first to say when alcohol or any other health or social-related issue is at risk of upsetting the balance.
This summer we’ve had a succession of ‘Pimms and Strings’ events which have been a huge success and as we head towards the winter we usually organise mulled wine evenings. They are great social events and perhaps we’ll invite Ms Bakewell along too – only for one glass mind!
I am not for one moment making light of this gravely serious subject – but just want to provide our insight into retirement living from the perspective of Retirement Villages Ltd. 
If you missed the programme, here is a link to it and there are details of how to view it on BBC Iplayer at the bottom of the article:
Sarah Burgess
Sales and marketing director