Wayne Adult Community Center

From the April, 2005 Cyberspace News

A Big Gamble

   A considerable percentage of older Americans may be in the  “at-risk” category of gamblers who tend to bet large amounts of money or more than they can afford.  This is according to a study published in the January edition of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.  The publication also found gambling to be a common pursuit among senior citizens.

   Researchers at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania surveyed 843 people 65 years and older.  The researchers found that 70 percent had been involved in at least one gambling activity in the past year.  11 percent fit the criteria of at-risk gamblers in that they had recently laid down more than $100 on a single bet and/or they had bet more than they could afford to lose.  

   The study also found that women were just as likely as men to be gamblers and to show signs of having gambling problems.  And while those surveyed may have had easier access to gambling
than other people living in different parts of the country, the investigators were still amazed at the  relatively high percentage that fit the at-risk profile. 

   In the United States, gambling is a $40 billion industry and some form of legal gambling is now available in 48 states.  It is also a popular social pursuit for seniors who, in a 2001 survey, ranked a trip to a casino as their most-popular day-trip social outing.  Not surprising, considering that the some casinos target seniors in their advertising. 

   Obviously, a tendency to wager high and bet more than one can   afford is particularly perilous for a senior citizen who may be living on a fixed income.  And a person who spends a significant portion of their money on gambling may have no money left with which to buy medicine.

   The researchers concluded that healthcare professionals  need to increase the public’s awareness and level of education about the potentially harmful  effects of gambling, especially among the rapidly-growing  senior population.  Screening to improve the early recognition of gambling problems, and counseling individuals with    impaired cognitive function (as well as their families) about the disastrous results of gambling may help reduce the personal, family, and social cost of problem gambling among seniors.