Alcohol and Older Adults

Alcohol is a widely-used, socially acceptable drug within our society. Many people don’t realize that alcohol slows down the central nervous system and affects the way we think, feel and act. As we get older, it is important to remember that alcohol affects each of us differently.

How does alcohol affect older adults?

As we age, our bodies change:

  • Blood circulation, kidneys and liver work more slowly to get rid of alcohol from our bodies.
  • Less water is available in our bodies to dilute alcohol.
  • We tend to have more chronic illnesses and take more medications.

When older adults drink alcohol, all of the above factors can put them more at risk for:

  • falls and injuries
  • unsafe medication and alcohol interactions
  • worsening of some existing health problems

Tips for safer use of alcohol:

  • Follow Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (content below).
  • If you are taking any prescription, over-the-counter medication or herbal remedy, check with your pharmacist before you drink any alcohol.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking alcohol.
  • Do not drink alcohol or increase your drinking of alcohol for health benefits.

Quick Facts about Alcohol and Older Adults

Did you know?

  • 34% of Halton older adults aged 65+ do not comply with Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
    Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009-2010
  • 150 of the medications most commonly prescribed to older adults interact with alcohol.
    Ontario Public Health Association, 2008

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines are intended for adults aged 25-64. If you choose to drink, these guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how. There are certain exceptions that older adults need to keep in mind when reading the alcohol drinking guidelines.

More Topics about Alcohol

Our Alcohol page has more information:

  • Alcohol and Chronic Disease
  • Alcohol-Related Harm
  • Alcohol Resources