Between the upbeat music, flashing screens and and the thrill of taking a chance, it’s no wonder that casinos continue to be a popular nightlife destination. And with the computer giving people access to online betting, it is now easier than ever to gamble from the comfort of your own home. Although it’s not uncommon to see billboards and commercials featuring young adults trying their luck at slot machines or table games, a very large group of patrons that frequent casinos are often overlooked: senior gamblers.
As a caregiver, you may not associate your elderly loved one with casinos, but the reality is that half of all adult visitors to casinos are aged 50 or older. While a few visits to the casino can be relatively harmless and entertaining, when the signs of gambling addiction begin to appear, this habit can become dangerous -- not only for senior gamblers’ wallets and retirement funds, but also for their overall health.
Why There Are So Many Senior Gamblers
The thought of your loved one spending countless hours at a slot machine or table game, or even a computer, may not seem like a very plausible reality. After all, the senior population is often characterized as being more cautious and frugal when it comes to money than younger age groups. But there’s actually a few reasons why there are so many senior gamblers populating the casinos, both in-person and online, including:
Casinos cater to those with mobility limitations. Most casinos provide scooters, wheelchairs and even oxygen so their older clientele can easily get around, regardless of their mobility limitations.
Marketing tactics specifically target seniors. In addition to offering mobility devices, casinos also provide free transportation, personalized discounts and even mail out “we’ve missed you” cards to senior gamblers.
Hopes for the “big win.” The thought of winning big money is enough to tempt anyone to try their luck at a casino, but this draw is even bigger for seniors, especially if they are worried that they don’t have enough retirement savings.
Gambling serves as a distraction. Since our risk of chronic conditions increases with age, many seniors use gambling as a way to distract themselves from any physical ailments or losses they may be suffering.
It’s an opportunity to socialize. For the 12.5 million seniors living alone, the casino is viewed as a place where they can socialize and spend time with others in a fun and upbeat environment.
While gambling can be a fun way to spend time with others, it’s important to remember that there are many risks of gambling -- most notably, addiction.
Common Signs of Gambling Addiction to Look For
Seniors aren’t the only age group affected by gambling addiction, but they do have more to lose from gambling than younger age groups. Not only are seniors more at risk of losing their retirement savings, but gambling addiction has also been linked to a higher risk of serious health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia and stress-related disorders.
Recognizing the signs of gambling addiction in elderly loved ones can be difficult, but there are certain questions you can ask yourself to help you determine if your loved one is at risk:
Do they ask for loans often?
Are they visiting their doctor more?
Have they not enjoyed their favorite hobbies or recreational activities in a while?
Are there any changes in their hygiene or self-care habits?
Do they have less food in their refrigerator or cupboards?
Are they late in paying their bills?
Are they displaying any signs of poor decision-making skills in other areas of their life?
Should you notice any of these signs of gambling addiction, speak with your loved ones about your concerns. The National Council on Problem Gambling provides resources to help you start the conversation with your loved one and even lists programs and treatment options available.
If, however, you believe that your loved one is suffering from gambling addiction due to cognitive issues or dementia, contact your loved one’s doctor, and you may even want to discuss the possibility of managing your loved one’s finances.
Safe & Healthy Living Outside of Casinos
Whether your loved one is facing the risks of gambling due to cognitive issues or because they are lonely, one of the best ways you can help them is by suggesting fun activities for them to socialize with others. By exercising with a workout partner, volunteering or taking advantage of events and programs offered by community centers, your loved one can enjoy all of the health benefits of socializing without the risks of gambling.
Part of encouraging health and wellbeing for your loved one is making proactive investments in their health. With a Mobile Guardian medical alert device, you can rest assured that your loved one will have access to instant help should they ever experience an emergency, no matter where they are.