Older Americans Month: Resources for Coping with Problem Gambling and a Pandemic
May is Older Americans Month, and the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) has been and always will committed to helping our seniors get the help they need. There are currently 52 million Americans that are 65 years of age or older. If you or someone you know is having problems with gambling, please call and share our 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 1-888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848) to get connected with the resources described here and many more.
These are hard times for many people. Unemployment is at a rate that rivals the Great Recession, food is scarce in supermarkets, and people are having to use savings and retirement monies to pay for bills, goods, and services. Simply put, this is a situation that many thought they would never have to go through in their lifetime.
One of the most vulnerable groups of people are older adults. It is well known that older adults are prone to gambling addiction. This happens for many reasons. It could be the death of a loved one, onset of an illness, boredom due to retirement, and many other factors.
With a global crisis such as we are facing now with COVID-19, this adds an extra layer to the problems older adults can face. Sadly, 8 out of 10 coronavirus-linked fatalities reported in the U.S. have been adults that are 65 years of age or older.
For older adults (55 years and older) that have a gambling problem, these times can be especially difficult. The urge to gamble, even for those in recovery practicing abstinence, can be overwhelming. Some situations that factor into this and can make the situation worse are:
- Financial strain due to limited income
- Isolation from family and friends
- Inability to use traditional resources (i.e. face-to-face group meetings or counseling)
- Withdrawal from gambling (or other substances)
- Displaced from a normal routine of walking, exercising, and spending time with neighbors and friends
- Not adept at technology now needed for social interaction (such as Skype™, FaceTime®, and social media tools)
- Not eating on a regular basis
- Not taking proper medications or supplements
As over one third of callers to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling’s (FCCG’s) 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine are older adults, this is a situation that is taken very seriously by everyone at the FCCG. The stress that seniors are exposed to during this crisis is real and undeniable.
Thankfully, the FCCG provides resources to those that feel alone, have the urge to gamble, including those who have thoughts of harming themselves.
We provide a special set within our A Chance for Change Workbooks series that is specifically geared towards older adults with gambling problems, which can assist you or a loved one in staying occupied by reading, journaling, and doing written exercises. We can send them to you at no cost.
There are Gamblers Anonymous phone meetings every night of the week which can connect you with others that are experiencing the same thing you are going through. These self-help groups can provide guidance on how to react to triggers and urges to gamble.
Our Peer Connect Program is an opportunity to have a conversation with a HelpLine Specialist that is in recovery for gambling addiction, providing an important and relatable perspective that can help guide you to a path of recovery.
Counseling is also available through our network of Certified Gambling Addiction Treatment Providers. These professionals have treated many people over the years and have the skills and education to assist anyone in need.
If you are seeking other assistance such as utilities, rent, medications, food, or any other special need, contact the Florida Elder Helpline at 1-800-963-5337. They can direct older adults to proper local resources to assist them.
The AARP® Community Connections website is aimed to assist anyone over 50 years of age and can connect you with an AARP® volunteer, provides community discussion groups with online resources for those feeling anxious or experiencing emotional distress, contains online tools that help coordinate support from family and friends, and offers guidance during the COVID-19 crisis.
If you know an older adult – or anyone else, including yourself – who is suffering from gambling addiction, call Florida’s 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 1-888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). You can also contact the HelpLine by texting to 321-978-0555, starting a live chat at gamblinghelp.org, and connecting with the FCCG on Facebook and Twitter.
Remember, we are all in this together!
 Reggentin, Mimi. “Orange County Commission on Aging Newsletter.” Orange County Commission on Aging Newsletter, 30 Apr. 2020.
 “Older Adults.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html.
 24-Hour Problem Gambling HelpLine Annual Report. July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019 ed., The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc., 2019, p. 19.