Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Exercise and Health Sciences
The harms associated with risky alcohol consumption have long been researched and recognised in the health field. However, little available research has focused on older people, or extended analysis of alcohol use by this segment of the population beyond a bio-medical perspective. With the rapid ageing of the global population, research that investigates alcohol use amongst older people from a social perspective is important. This article reports on research with a group of older women and men, to identify and explain factors that influence alcohol consumption. In-depth interviews were conducted in Perth, Western Australia with 20 men and 22 women aged 65 to 74 years who were living in either private residences or retirement villages. Study findings indicated that alcohol use was linked with social engagement in activities across both settings, and that moderate alcohol use appeared to serve an important function as a ‘social lubricant’. The major facilitating factors for alcohol use included the frequency of opportunities for social engagement and access to a ready-made social group in retirement villages. The major constraining factor across both settings was driving. Interestingly, health was not viewed as a major facilitating or constraining factor for alcohol consumption. Conclusions from the research were that alcohol serves an important role in enhancing social engagement, and there appear to be strong associations between residential setting and alcohol use.