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Alcohol and Older People

Drinking women


In Wales the vast majority of adults drink alcohol. Most of them enjoy doing so and that includes older people. However, there are some reasons why older people should be particularly careful with alcohol.

As we get older, most of us start to drink less than we used to and some people decide not to drink at all. In late middle age and older, growing ill health is another reason why we might cut down or stop drinking. On the other hand in later life some of us may continue to drink much as we have done for years. Others may drink more than before as they have additional time on their hands since retiring.

Whatever the pattern of use, it is important to remember however, that our ability to handle alcohol diminishes in later life.

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

That depends on a number of factors but the general guidelines for safer drinking for those aged 18-60 are as follows:

  • Men  - up to 21 units a week (eg. approximately 2 bottles of wine OR 7 pints of real ale OR 10 double measures of spirits)
  • Women - up to 14 units a week (eg. approximately 11/bottles of wine OR 7 large sherries)


For a number of reasons, alcohol affects older people more and we should aim for a lower level of drinking than this.

Experts suggest that perhaps a third to a half of the limits given above              

What Is A Unit Of Alcohol?


 Some Ideas....

  • Spend more time with people who don't drink or drink very little - meet friends or join a club of some sort
  • Take up a new hobby or interest
  • Try having a warm drink rather than an alcoholic one to help you sleep
  • Avoid alcohol if you're ill or feeling cold
  • Try to have at least two alcohol free days a week
  • Try to avoid drinking on an empty stomach
  • Beware of accidents - drinking increase the risk of falls or other accidental injuries
  • If we are on medication from the doctor, some should not be taken with alcohol as their effect will be reduced or stopped altogether. Ask your GP or pharmacist if you are unsure

Where Can I Get Help?

You may feel that it could be awkward asking for help with your drinking but the earlier you do something about it, the easier it will be to achieve some success. You can:

  • Talk to your GP or practice nurse
  • Contact your local specialist alcohol agency. In Pembrokeshire this is Prism and you can contact them on 01437 769484
  • Visit
  • Phone Drinkline, the 24 hour free to call national alcohol helpline on 0800 917 8282
ID: 24610 Revised: 25/5/2016