Family Living Focus: Older adults and alcohol

A national survey found that about 40 percent of adults ages 65 and older drink alcohol. Older adults can experience a variety of problems from drinking alcohol, especially those who:

• Take certain medications

• Have health problems

• Drink heavily

There are special considerations facing older adults who drink, including:

Increased Sensitivity to Alcohol

Aging can lower the body’s tolerance for alcohol. Older adults generally experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than when they were younger. This puts older adults at higher risks for falls, car crashes, and other unintentional injuries that may result from drinking.

Increased Health


Certain health problems are common in older adults. Heavy drinking can make these problems worse, including:

• Diabetes

• High blood pressure

• Congestive heart failure

• Liver problems

• Osteoporosis

• Memory problems

• Mood disorders

Bad Interactions

with Medications

Many prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as herbal remedies can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. Medications that can interact badly with alcohol include:

• Aspirin

• Acetaminophen

• Cold and allergy medicine

• Cough syrup

• Sleeping pills

• Pain medication

• Anxiety or depression medicine

Drinking Guidelines for Older Adults

Adults over age 65 who are healthy and do not take medications should not have more than:

• 3 drinks on a given day

• 7 drinks in a week

Drinking more than these amounts puts people at risk of serious alcohol problems.

If you have a health problem or take certain medications, you may need to drink less or not at all.


Information adapted from article by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Today’s Caregiver, April 8, 2014 – Issue #703.

If you would like more information on “Older Adults and Alcohol” contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus – University of Minnesota at waldn001@umn.edu. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.