GRANDPARENTS are among the biggest suppliers of alcohol to teenage drinkers, authorities say.
The 1960s - long associated with excess and decadence – inspired a more liberal attitude toward alcohol consumption that helped to shape the habits of those now in their 60s and 70s.
According to Age UK, the over-65s are more likely to drink every day than any other age group, and grandparents are the most likely to pass alcohol to under-18s.
While pensioners drink for several reasons - including to combat loneliness and using regular hot toddies to treat illnesses - experts say changes in culture have led to an increase in older drinkers and subsequent problems.
Gillian Peel, chief executive of Age UK Darlington, said the organisation is currently applying for funding in a bid to tackle the issue.
She said: “There’s a lot of evidence to suggest there is an issue with older people drinking.
“Experts think that will be exacerbated over time as the 1960s generation have grown up with a culture of drinking and they’re drinking at consistently high levels.
“There’s a large group of people from the swinging sixties who are about 70 or so.
“The culture changed from the restrictions and rations of wartime to everyone enjoying a glass of wine.
“It’s not just someone having a small sherry now and again – the whole culture changed after the 1950s and drinking became more and more acceptable.”
She added: “There are concerns it could damage long term health and we are looking at several ways of tackling the issue.”
Darlington councillor Veronica Copeland said drink is causing a problem in the town’s sheltered accommodation.
She said: “It’s not a massive issue but it is becoming noticeable.
“Loneliness plays a big part with people drinking but a lot are just used to having a drink and they carry on and can get a little bit out of hand.
“If they’re drinking more than is good for them it can impact on their health and cause problems for other residents.
“Not everybody in sheltered housing is a nice old lady, you do get some people who can be disruptive.”
Sergeant Mick Urwin, from Durham Constabulary’s Alcohol Harm Reduction Unit, said recent research found that grandparents were the biggest suppliers of alcohol to underage drinkers.
A grandmother in Consett was recently fined for giving alcohol to her grandchildren, who went on to commit anti-social behaviour while drunk.
He said: “The under-18s turn to grandparents as a first port of call because they know they’re more likely to get alcohol there, whether that’s because of their attitude towards alcohol or because they want to spoil their grandkids.”
He said families should keep a close eye on the amount their older relations are drinking and seek advice if necessary.
He added: “From a policing point of view, we don’t really get called to anti-social behaviour in residential homes but there is a health issue with older drinkers and within Durham we are using a multi-agency approach to look at that.”
Age UK Darlington, in conjunction with the NECA organisation, will soon launch a cafe for older people coping with alcohol and substance misuse issues.
For more information, call 01325 362832.