Gambling can be a social and recreational activity for many people over 60. For some gambling provides an opportunity to socialise when other social activities may have become too difficult.
Regardless of age, it is important to remember that anyone that gambles can be at risk of harm. Harms can be emotional, physical or financial. In particular, the economic harm of gambling for mature aged people can have a dramatic effect on the person’s life, as they may be on a fixed income, i.e., pension or retirement.
Some potential contributing factors to gambling becoming a problem for mature aged adults are:
- Gambling Machines can be deceptively simple to put money in, which can make it easy to spend more than planned.
- Machines are made deliberately technical, making it difficult to understand how it works and how much you are spending.
- Some mature adults sleepless, nights can feel lonely making the seemingly warm and inviting venues an attractive place to stay.
- For people who have lost partners or friends, loneliness, grief, and isolation may be difficult to manage, and gambling provides an escape and somewhere welcoming to spend some time.
- Having more free time, boredom can be a risk factor for gambling getting out of hand as someone adapts to a new lifestyle, without a purpose to their daily routines.
Recently we spoke to Mike*, who was dismayed at how his gambling had got out of hand.
Mike is a retired farmer who has recently lost his wife and is struggling with the loneliness of being at home by himself. “One day just started merging into the next, and I lost track of time,” said Mike.
He explained that when he began gambling, it felt like he was having fun again and enjoyed spending time outside his house. “The way hotel staff welcomed me with a cup of coffee and biscuit made me feel at home”. He says.
Mike began staying longer at the hotel and spending more money on the pokies, at this point life became more stressful, trying to balance his limited income. “I am ashamed that this has got out of hand and I don’t want to worry the kids by asking for their help,” he said when we mentioned asking his family for support.
After speaking to the counsellor he realised that it was normal to feel grief and sadness after losing a loved one. Gambling had provided him an escape, but it also caused him harm. “I am ready to change now, I just need the tools to help me do it,” says Mike
Mike was provided with the phone number of a free financial counsellor to help him put his money in order and a budget in place. He also agreed to reach out for support from his family and to reconnect with his friends.
If you can identify with issues, we have described in this blog we have free, confidential and understanding counsellors waiting to chat to you now, to help you begin making a change to your gambling.