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Alcohol use across retirement: a qualitative study into drinking in later life

• Retirement is one of many events in a person’s life which can bring a change of routine, including routines and practices around alcohol.
• Retirement can provide an opportunity for the volume of alcohol consumed to increase due to increased opportunity to drink, but it could also see a decline as social networks reduced or changed, or as the pressures of work cease.
• Processes and circumstances associated with ageing can present sudden broken routines that can be problematic in terms of periods of increased risk of social isolation and/or increased alcohol consumption, particularly for previous heavy drinkers.
• Whilst broken routines can be associated with retirement they are broader than this and include things like taking on a caring role, bereavement and loss of social networks.
• Moderate drinking amongst retired people can contribute to their engagement with ‘active’ and ‘healthy’ ageing. For this reason, alcohol need not be viewed simply as a hurdle to health and wellbeing.
• The public health message that ageing brings increased risks associated with alcohol was being received by those in our sample.
• Healthy ageing policies can learn from the active contribution older people make in creating healthy routines, in identifying for themselves the risks associated with the life-stage in relation to alcohol and help support these adaptations.
• Services should ensure the issue of older people’s drinking is not missed. The participants in our sample were not ‘addiction’ clients so would need to receive advice from other sources. However, the needs of older people, particularly around ensuring social connections and interaction, are no different from adults more generally and care should be taken not to ‘ghettoise’ messages and services.