As we age, we all want our lives to remain full, engaging and independent. Social experiences – including gambling – can provide company and entertainment. But keep in mind: what’s harmless fun for some can be a problem for others. The rush that comes from taking a chance, and occasionally winning, makes gambling addictive. And problem gambling can have social, emotional, and financial impacts on people, families, and communities.
That’s why it’s important for older adults to be aware of the risks of gambling, and to be mindful of gambling’s place in their social interactions and lives.
The Many Faces of Gambling
When most people think of gambling, they think of going to the casino to play slot machines and card or table games. An innocent lottery or scratch ticket here and there may not seem like gambling—but it is. Here are other activities that are considered forms of gambling.
- Sports betting, including online fantasy sports betting
- Online and mobile games
- Horse or dog race betting
Essentially, any time you risk something valuable on an event determined at least partially by chance, with the hope of gaining something of value—that’s gambling.
Problem or Not?
Many social events—such as bus trips to casinos or community center Casino Nights—can involve gambling, especially for older adults. Some people may experience problem gambling or develop a gambling disorder.
How to tell the difference? Answer these questions to see if you or a loved one may have a gambling problem.
Have you or a loved one ever....
- Felt that you needed to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement?
- Felt restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling?
- Made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling?
- Often felt preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)?
- Gambled often when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed)?
- After losing money gambling, returned another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)?
- Lied frequently to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling?
- Jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling?
- Had to rely on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling?
If you answered “yes” to one or more questions, then you should consider taking a closer look at your gambling and reaching out for help. Call the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-327-5050 to learn more.
Time Better Spent
There are many healthy alternatives to gambling that offer social engagement with less risk. After all, as an older adult, this is your time to make the most of every day.
Here are some possibilities to explore.
- Councils on Aging & Senior Centers provide support services to older adults, families and caregivers in the community. Made up of 350 local agencies, the Councils on Aging & Senior Centers serve as advocates and offer activities that provide positive alternatives to gambling—such as social gatherings, fitness and recreation activities, and lifelong learning opportunities. Local senior centers can provide a sense of what programming exists in a particular community.
- Virtual programming, such as arts and culture “tours,” health and wellness programs, and entertainment, can also provide easy-to-access activities.
Help is available. If you need additional support or resources to help you address or prevent problem gambling, reach out to our Helpline Services.