Gambling is a popular form of recreation with a long history in most of the world. The opportunities for legal gambling have increased markedly in many countries due to favorable public attitudes towards gambling as entertainment, the desire of governments to create jobs and generate income, and the desire of cities to promote tourism and economic development. For example, during the last three decades, legalized gambling has become one of the fastest-growing industries in North America.

Currently, almost every state in the US has legalized a specific type of gambling, except in Hawaii and Utah. In places like Singapore and Macau, the amount of fully functional casino houses has also increased significantly in the last two decades. However, what catches our attention the most is that most gamblers are of retirement age. Older people are one of the fastest-growing groups of gamblers. Among adults who are at least 65, a study discovered that their most frequent social activity was gambling while casinos and bingo beating movies, lunch, shopping, and golf made the list as preferred social activities.

Older adults have higher participation rates in gambling than ever due mainly to the aging population and rapid expansion and greater access to legalized gambling. According to the 2013 American Gaming Association Casino Entertainment Survey, casino visit rates among seniors are high, with 28 percent of people 65 and older who reported going to a casino in 2012. 70% of adults above the age of 65 said that they had played the previous year, and almost 10 percent admitted to betting more than they could afford to lose. This study was revealed by research at the University of Pennsylvania.

It is estimated that the number of older adults who participate in gambling will increase significantly as Americans over 65 represent the fastest-growing age group. This segment of the population is likely to total approximately 71 million by 2030. This figure represents one in five Americans. This definitely shows that the number of older adults participating in gambling activities has increased dramatically in recent years and may continue to grow. Here are some of the likely reasons why most gamblers are of retirement age.

Why most gamblers are of retirement age

A 2008 study at Wayne State University that examines motivations among older adults to participate in casino games reveals that they play for extrinsic and intrinsic reasons. While external goals include earning money and complementing income, intrinsic reasons include entertainment, a distraction from everyday problems such as loneliness and boredom, being close to other people, and escaping the feelings of pain and loss associated with the death of a loved one or a close friend. When people are faced with significant changes or losses in life, they are more likely to develop a gambling problem. Sometimes, retirement comes with sudden social seclusion and the greater awareness of the physical restrictions that come with aging and pain that is felt when a loved one dies. These factors could constitute an overwhelming amount of stressful life changes that increase the vulnerability of seniors and make them susceptible to the world of gambling. Also, many adults of retirement age may feel ashamed to admit their gambling problem or be afraid of the reality of social stigma that accompanies gambling, while reduced communication with friends, family, and co-workers can make signs of gambling problems difficult to detect, creating the ingredients for a formidable challenge that social workers working with the elderly should address. What better distraction is there than the possibility of being lucky to carry thousands of dollars? Older adults of retirement age are willing to bet every penny they have been able to save during their years of work in case they can be big winners.

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Also, the gambling spots are striving really hard to make the atmosphere comfortable enough for the older people of retirement ages. Some casino locations offer conducive means of transportation/excursions to gambling venues, special delicious meals during the day, and in other scenarios, cultural icons attract ethnic minority individuals such as large-scale sculptures placed at strategic entry points or specific cultural events such as dance and art exhibitions that take place within the casino’s facilities. Casinos serve the elderly by attracting them with exciting freebies including a convenient means of transportation by bus, heavily discounted meals and entertainment, promotional coupons for playing for a specific amount of time and other prizes. Casinos also provide older people with wheelchairs or scooters to make them feel at home in their facilities. Together with greater availability of various forms of play, older adults can play more and may be at higher risk of gambling addiction. For many decades, the stereotypical idea that gamblers act or look like selected images from movies and television has spread like wildfire: the fierce and arrogant guy in a tuxedo at the blackjack table or the middle-aged man with a cigar in his mouth. As the game has become more accessible and acceptable in our culture, our awareness of who the players really are has also expanded to include young people and adults alike. Talking to someone about problems associated with gambling is never easy. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of problematic gambling for older adults. Often, the responsibility of controlling an older person’s game behavior rests with older children and medical care.

Signs of gambling addiction in older people

Because older people tend to live far from their younger relatives, their addiction can remain hidden for long periods. However, there are some detectable signs that let you know when a senior is into gambling.

  • They may appear withdrawn or unavailable frequently
  • They feel reluctant about describing their daily activities or special occurrences.
  • Without concrete reason, a gambling senior may begin to sell all his priced possessions.
  • It is very easy to spin tales about their exciting victories, but never want to discuss their losses

As stated earlier, lots of research has shown that addiction rates are currently increasing for the elderly. As retirement looms closer, experts believe that the number of addicted older adults will continue to grow, which presents a worse socioeconomic problem. The group of gamblers with the fastest-growing issues is older women, mainly due to the loss of a spouse, since women tend to survive men. In summary, gambling is a tempting activity for older people of retirement age due to fears of not having stashed enough to keep them during their inactive years, boredom or as a means of escape. Boredom is a huge factor because there is a drastic shift from the active timeline of a routine job and a lot of things to attend to. However, with age comes a significant decrease in movement due to the weakness of the body. All these evoke strong feelings of wanting to fix an underlying problem. Hence they turn to gambling as a refuge, and this could lead to addiction.

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