State Views: When seniors fill their time with gambling

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Rose Gruber
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

“It's something to do.”

That's the response you often get when asking a senior citizen about gambling. With more free time on their hands, older adults find gambling is a popular activity. Many retirees see gambling as a way to pass time, while other say it helps them, at least momentarily, to forget the grief, losses and other challenges that come as part of the aging process.

At the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, we've also found that seniors are less likely and less willing to seek help if the level of gambling progresses to become a problem. There's a tendency for them to hide possible gambling issues because of embarrassment, so they are reluctant to reach out by calling our Helpline. And for seniors, particularly those on fixed incomes, the financial impact of a gambling problem can be quick and devastating.

So what are the signs that you should be looking for if you suspect that Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa may have a gambling problem? The signs most often associated with problem gambling include:

-- Loss of interest and participation in usual activities with friends and family.

-- Unaccounted blocks of time.

-- Secrecy.

-- Changes in attitude or personality.

-- Cashing in stocks or other investments or pawning family valuables, antiques or collections.

-- Neglect of personal needs (food, utilities, medical).

-- Depression.

For any senior heading down the path toward a gambling problem, or problem gamblers of any age, help is available. Contact the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling through the statewide problem gambling Helpline at 800-GAMBLE-5 (800-426-2535). The Helpline is answered 24 hours a day and provides a valuable link to resources in the community for those dealing with problem or compulsive gambling.

Seeking help early is important for anyone facing an addiction, whether it's gambling, alcohol or drugs. For seniors, early intervention can be lifesaving when retirement savings are threatened by a gambling problem.

Rose Gruber is executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling. The council provides resources, awareness and education on problem and pathological gambling disorders while maintaining neutrality on the issue of legalized gambling. Contact Gruber at 920-437-8888 or wcpgamble5-rose@new.rr.com. Visit wi-problemgamblers.org.

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