The battle against alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland is being boosted by a health initiative announced today by the Big Lottery Fund.
The Big Lottery Fund is investing £4.2 million into an alcohol-related harm prevention and awareness programme. Run in partnership with Addiction NI and its partners, it will support people aged over 50 living in the Western Health and Social Care Trust area.
The Drink Wise, Age Well project is part of the UK-wide Rethink Good Health programme aimed at those aged 50 and over, an age group that can find themselves drinking more for a variety of reasons, such as retirement or an increasing problem of loneliness and isolation.
The Adult Drinking Patterns report from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in 2013 also showed that daily drinking was more common among older people with 18% of men and 14% of women aged 60-75 years old drinking almost every day. This compared with 2% of men and 1% of women aged 18-29 years old.
The seven-year Rethink Good Health programme will support a variety of projects taking place across the Western Health and Social Care Trust area led by Addiction NI and its partners. These will include training, awareness raising and activities aimed at supporting people over 50 around their relationship with alcohol.
The programme will help inform policy and practice about preventing alcohol-related harm in later life, improve health and wellbeing of people aged 50 and over who are at risk of developing alcohol problems and help build more effective services aimed at alcohol-related issues.
Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “The last thing we want to do is to tell older people they can’t enjoy a relaxing drink with friends and family. With a lot of the current alcohol programmes geared towards younger people, we want to make sure that those over 50 are not neglected, are informed about the warning signs around alcohol problems and are able to find help if they need it.
“Addiction NI will bring their wealth of knowledge and experience into leading Rethink Good Health, along with their partners working across the Western Trust area, as we aim to reduce alcohol-related harm in older people and help them to live healthier, more active and independent lives.”
Thelma Abernethy, Director of Addiction NI, said: “Problem drinking doesn’t happen in isolation – there are always other factors involved. This is especially true for the over 50s who can end up drinking at harmful levels as they face challenging life transitions such as retirement, the loss of a loved one or loneliness.
“We’ve called our programme Drink Wise, Age Well. It’s a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of these issues and improve access to information and treatment for the over 50s. Addiction NI is delighted to deliver this comprehensive programme in the Western Trust area, supported by the commitment and expertise of our consortium partners.”