Recognizing Gambling Problems Among Older Adults

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poker table

Casinos are a popular day trip or weekend getaway for many people, including older adults. Senior centers often sponsor bus trips to these establishments as a fun outing. According to the American Gaming Association, gamblers spend more than $37 billion each year at the nation's casinos.

For most older adults, it’s harmless fun. You play a few slot machines, see a show or two, and eat greasy buffet food before heading home. For some seniors, however, gambling can become an addiction that leads to financial ruin.

The Dark Side of Gambling

While some seniors have scaled back casino trips because of the coronavirus, there are other gambling outlets putting older adults’ fiscal well-being at risk. Online gambling, racetrack betting, bingo nights, and even riverboat cruises often target seniors with ads and perks. Free food, fun prizes, and easily accessible locations are just a few.

Just how widespread is the problem? According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 2 million adults in this country meet the criteria for severe gambling problems each year. Another 4 to 6 million are considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems.

How can you recognize the signs of gambling addiction in an older loved one?

Here are some warning signs:

  • Talking about gambling—especially winning—excessively
  • Seeming obsessed with finding opportunities to gamble
  • Experiencing financial problems despite a good income
  • Hiding how often they gamble
  • Lying about where they are or where they are going
  • Frequently asking to borrow money
  • Stealing or engaging in other unlawful behavior to get money

Keep in mind most people gamble responsibly. But if your loved one is exhibiting any of these signs, it might be time for a serious discussion. Encourage the older adult to take the NORC Diagnostic Screen for Gambling Problems-Self Administered (NODS-SA). It’s an objective tool for helping determine if a person is addicted.

Helping a Senior Find Treatment for Gambling

Keep in mind your senior loved one might realize they have a problem. They just don’t know how to beat it. They might need you to intervene and help connect them with treatment options.

Experts say there are generally three types of treatment for addiction:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to learn how to overcome the problem
  • Medication to treat an underlying mental health issue, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Connecting with a self-help or support group, like Gamblers Anonymous

For extreme cases of gambling addiction, a stay at an inpatient rehabilitation center might be necessary.

Life Enrichment at Five Star Senior Living

Through our Lifestyle360 program, we provide residents with a variety of daily life enrichment opportunities. It’s a calendar of activities designed to meet every resident’s passions and interests. By nurturing the body, mind, and spirit, we strive to help residents enjoy their best quality of life.

Call one of the 260 nationwide Five Star communities today to learn more!