For many senior citizens, it's becoming a popular pastime. Friends and relatives are being asked to watch their older relatives for signs of problem gambling.
"Seniors are one of the high risk groups that we always have a concern about."
Rose Gruber, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling , says many seniors use gambling as a distraction from emotional pain, such as the loss of a loved one, chronic pain or even the fear of death. Seniors are more likely to experience those changes all at the same time in their life.
"You might have a senior who is retired, the kids have moved out of the house, they may have downsized from a five bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment, they may have just retired, their spouse may have died."
Gruber says older Americans are among the fastest-growing group of gamblers. Casinos offer price incentives, and seniors enjoy the social activity.
"You know, 'I'm looking for something to do, this is kind of giving me a place to go, this is making me feel like I'm wanted, I'm not so alone, things aren't hurting so bad when I go to the casino.'"
Signs a senior is developing a gambling problem: Frequency in playing, lengthy absences from home, increased health issues because their medication and food money is spent on gambling, cashing-in life insurance policies, depression, anxiety, stress-related disorders, missing household items to get extra cash. Gruber says gambling hotline counselors nationwide are noticing that calls from seniors are on the rise. Call: 1-800-GAMBLE-5
NOTE: A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that 70% of seniors had gambled in the last year. Help is available, both for the gambler and his family members. Visit: www.wi-problemgamblers.org Call: 24-hour helpline: 1-800-GAMBLE-5
More signs that someone you know is developing a gambling problem:
- Lying about gambling
- Hiding gambling losses
- Changing from gambling with groups to gambling alone
- Talking only about wins, not losses
- Missing household or personal items
- Becoming withdrawn from family and friends
- Use of credit cards to gamble