Gambling is a massive industry in a lot of countries, and Canada is no exception. Gambling is also very popular with the senior population as a means of entertainment and a fun social outing.
For most seniors, a trip to the casino is just a bit of harmless fun. For others, however, it can be a real problem ending in financial ruin.
Why is gambling a problem for many seniors?
Seniors are an ideal target for casino marketers for several reasons.
First of all, seniors provide a good option for filling casinos during off-peak hours. Most casinos see their highest traffic at night, while a lot of establishments are empty during the day.
Offering free transportation and meals, as well as discounted shows and entertainment, is the method many casinos use to lure seniors in for an afternoon excursion.
A lot of older adults that are bored and looking for something to do will jump at this opportunity for affordable entertainment.
In some cases, regular trips to the casino can turn into addictive behaviors.
What does problem gambling mean?
An addiction to gambling, also called problem gambling, can happen without the person even realizing it.
It starts out innocently enough, but can end in an unstoppable compulsion to keep gambling.
For people addicted to gambling, a trip the casino is no longer about having fun, but rather about trying to fix underlying problems, like stress or depression.
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
If you suspect your senior loved one may have a gambling disorder, there are several signs and clues to watch out for.
Some signs of problem gambling, include:
- Visiting the casino multiple times a week
- Seeming agitated or irritable when not at the casino
- Embellishing about winnings
- Downplaying losses
- Lying about gambling and finances
- Dwindling bank accounts or constantly borrowing money
- Concentrated focus on gambling, little concern for anything else
If you notice a loved one exhibiting any of these behaviors it may be a good time to start a discussion to get the required help.
Risk Factors for Problem Gambling in Seniors
Seniors being heavily targeted by casinos for off-peak business is one of the risk factor for a gambling addiction, but there are other elements that can lead to problem gambling as well.
Seniors are at a higher risk for problem gambling, due to:
- Social isolation
- Cognitive impairment
- Financial problems
- Other addictions
Sometimes gambling problems may arise because seniors just have nothing else to do. Other times it is a way to elevate moods and inject some excitement into life, or to reduce stress.
Health conditions that affect judgement, like the mental impairment caused by the onset of dementia, may be a contributing factor.
Seniors with low incomes may see gambling as a way to improve their financial situation.
Older adults with addictions to alcohol or other substances may be more prone to a gambling disorder.
Treating a Gambling Addiction
One of the most challenging steps towards curing a gambling problem is getting seniors to admit there is a problem in the first place. Most seniors with gambling addictions feel the situation is under control, and they can manage it themselves.
This often involves lying about the amount of time spent at casinos, as wells as the amount of money lost during these excursions.
Sometimes a gambling problem is only perceived, by over-concerned family members that disapprove of gambling.
For this reason, it is important to establish if a real gambling problem does exist before taking any drastic measures.
Underlying Reasons for Gambling Addiction
Once the situation has been thoroughly examined, and a gambling problem has been determined, the next step is to figure out the underlying causes.
Is it a medical issue?
Studies show that problematic gambling is often a way for seniors to deal with the onset of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
Cognitive decline can have a direct effect on impulse control and decision making abilities.
Side effects of medications can also have an impact on mental capacity and judgement.
An appointment with a doctor or health care professional can help distinguish if underlying causes are medical.
Methods of Treatment
Getting the right help is crucial for overcoming a gambling problem.
Just getting someone to the point where they will accept treatment can be a struggle.
Some effective treatment methods, may include:
- Support groups
- Alternative hobbies and activities