I still remember the first time my kids ever saw one of their grandparents slightly intoxicated. It was the rare occasion if my parents even drank but celebrating a milestone birthday at my brother’s cottage one summer resulted in my Dad enjoying a dance around the fire pit. With the flames roaring and little sparks of fire rising in the air, it was a once in a lifetime vision that had my kids in awe of their normally businesslike grandfather letting loose. Just one other opportunity for giggles presented itself when their Nanna, under some considerable stress at the time, drank a glass of wine with her dinner a bit too quickly and a curse word came flying out as she told a funny story. My kids are now in their late teens and early 20’s and still tease her about the time they actually heard their white-haired, “proper” British Nanna swear. Alcohol will do that. It occasionally loosens us up – yes even us “older adults” – and whether it loosens the joints for dancing or the lips for bad language, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, a beverage while watching the game or in celebration of a special event should never be something we give up on just because of the date on our birth certificate. Sometimes, alcohol in moderation simply makes for great memories!
What we do know about alcohol as we age however is this: it can and often does impact us a little differently then when we were younger. I still remember the first time I experienced a hangover, trying to be gentle in movement, avoiding anything but dry crackers and drinking water in a vain attempt to dilute the wine in my system, I realized with the hard thud of the hammering headache that my youth was behind me. Remember those days when you went to work the next day like the night before never happened? Yeah – me neither! For older adults, certain medications can interact with alcohol compounding its impact. In other news, either good or bad depending on your point of view, as we age muscle mass turns to fat tissue. That’s good news for those of us looking for an excuse to blame those few extra pounds on but bad news when it comes to your intake of spirits. That’s because it can lead to a higher BAC* level sooner – meaning it’s easier to become intoxicated. We also hold less water generally as we get older so dehydration is a risk and rehydrating harder to accomplish. For some reason, us “seniors” at 55+ are also slower to process alcohol through the liver leading to a potential increase in liver damage too. Factor in the risk of trips and falls and broken bones and…..sigh……other than enjoying it, is there any “upside” to a boozy beverage with friends?
The answer is “Yes!” (As an aside, and a devoted red wine drinker – thank goodness!) Enjoying a glass of wine, a sparkling cider or even a spirit isn’t always a bad thing. According to some studies, the anti-oxidants in red wine can be beneficial. I’m sure I read that somewhere? Maybe I just hoped I read that somewhere? Seriously though, if you are otherwise fit and healthy, occasionally indulging can also help to prevent depression, high blood pressure, the risk of stroke and some heart conditions. Mind you, for every study that points to these potential positives, you’ll find another study listing those same conditions as a risk factor from drinking. It’s all so confusing and that’s without having a drink!
When it comes to alcohol and aging, perhaps the bottom line really is about personal preferences and individual health conditions. Enjoying a night out with friends – perhaps even your Amintro friends – might be just the right time for you to indulge in a good glass of wine with dinner or a mojito on the patio on a warm, summer evening. While it’s important to be mindful of how alcohol affects your body and your behaviour, it doesn’t mean you have to abstain. After all, sometimes some of the best memories arise when you watch your dear old Dad dancing around the fire pit to the sounds of a golden oldie by Roy Orbison.
Written by Sheralyn Roman
*BAC refers to your blood alcohol concentration level