Alcohol affects older adults differently

September 1, 2015 Providence Health Team

Alcohol is considered a depressant that affects the brain and spinal cord. As you age, your body changes and may process alcohol differently. It’s important to be aware of the effects of alcohol at this point in your life so you can be safe and healthy.

Increased sensitivity

Your evenings may have consisted of two bottles of beer for years without any physical effects, but at 65, you may now feel tipsy or even slur your words. As you age, you become more sensitive to alcohol and feel a greater effect. If you’re at home, be careful moving around to avoid any falls or fractures. If you’ve been drinking while out, remember to call a taxi if you don’t have a designated driver with you.

Existing health conditions may worsen

Heavy drinking can worsen health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and ulcers. Talk to your health care provider about how alcohol can affect your health and about whether there are any needed changes regarding consumption.


You may be taking medications daily. It’s important to know that prescription, over-the-counter and herbal supplements could be dangerous or even fatal when combined with alcohol. For example, some cough syrups and laxatives already contain alcohol, so additional alcohol could increase your impairment. Talk to your health care provider about whether drinking should be avoided altogether because of your medicine.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people 65 years or older should drink no more than seven drinks a week or three drinks in one day. If you have any health problems or take certain medicines, you may have to drink less or not have any alcohol at all. Talk with your health care provider to see if you need to adjust your alcohol consumption at this point in your life.

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