As the baby boomer generation heads into retirement, the country will be populated by a larger than ever demographic of older (over 55) citizens. The truth is that not all of those entering their golden years are prepared to handle the challenges of retirement and older age. An alarming number of seasoned citizens are turning to substance abuse as they begin to feel overwhelmed.
A Growing Problem
Close to 3 million older adults suffer from alcohol abuse, a figure that is expected to double to 6 million by 2020. And while most seniors take one or more legal prescription medications, the rate of illicit drug use increased more than double from 2002-2013. Substance abuse is becoming a growing problem among older Americans.
One decade-long study of 52-75 year olds has revealed that while retirement is a major contributor to substance abuse, it is not the sole factor. The end of a working career is just one significant change among a host of changes which take place as people transition into retirement age. Few are prepared to cope with the avalanche of change.
Many Changes in a Short Time Span
Lack of daily structure and work is certainly one tremendous adjustment created by retirement. But so is the resulting financial constraint most people face. At the same time, crumbling health, the loss of friends (through death or relocation) and lack of social connection combine to overwhelm those not prepared to deal with so much change and loss.
Awareness and Mental Health
Awareness is a powerful guard against substance abuse after retirement. Understanding the scope of change in advance can be preventive. Nonetheless, not until a person is in the midst of the change and loss can they truly understand its impact. If you are tempted to blunt the loneliness and sense of purposelessness created by retirement with alcohol or drugs, consider talking with someone instead.
Family Guidance has decades of experience helping individuals and families navigate through the troubled waters of loss, depression and change. It is possible to learn how to cope even with momentous changes. Let us show you how.