Health & Fitness

Gambling does not have respect for age

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Summary

  • To diagnose any disease or medical condition, doctors have set criteria that must be met for this.
  • By way of example, a gambler must show a tendency to bet more and more money to get the ‘kick’.
  • Additionally, he would become irritable when he tries to reduce or stop gambling (similar to withdrawal effects of the alcoholic).

I read a recent newspaper article about how elderly Kenyans had become gambling addicts. Is this some sort of peer pressure or psychological problem?

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Your question demands that we analyse at least three different matters. The first is gambling, the second being challenges that come with ageing, and the third is peer pressure and how it affects different age groups.

At the very outset, let me declare a potential conflict of interest in this matter because on all accounts, I fall in the category of the elderly, and my answer must be seen with the lenses of an old man.

For a start, I do not know who wrote the article you now refer to and more importantly exactly what it said about gambling and the elderly. It is, however, well-established that gambling is a serious problem in all ages and the elderly are no exception to this fact.

And for removal of doubt, gambling disorder is a condition that is recognised by experts as a disease and as such any person with the diagnosis may be taken to a specialist for evaluation and treatment. Let me explain.

To diagnose any disease or medical condition, doctors have set criteria that must be met for this. By way of example, a gambler must show a tendency to bet more and more money to get the ‘kick’. Additionally, he would become irritable when he tries to reduce or stop gambling (similar to withdrawal effects of the alcoholic).

A gambler knows that it is wrong to and continue doing it, he keeps promising himself and others that he will stop and that he has control. The promises are not kept and this becomes the source of much anger and suffering by families of gamblers young and old.

A true gambler is obsessed with the addiction and the act is in his mind all the time. He is permanently either thinking of past winnings/losses, and constantly planning future gambling.

If an elderly person was addicted to golfing as the chosen gambling activity, then that would be his only preoccupation all his waking hours. He would be ruled by the desire to move from game to game and would bet with many people in a day.

Then there is the constant desire to go back and recoup his losses. If he loses today, that is proof that tomorrow will be a better day. Nobody can convince the gambler that he might face financial ruin by more gambling.

The story is told of a Kenyan man who first lost a car and later everything by gambling on the golf course.

Such a person would lie to his family and friends about the extent of the losses on the game always making them sound mild.

An old teacher of mine went into serious debt by gambling in city casinos. No amount of persuading or cajoling could stop the old man.

In the end, the gambler loses everything. Family, friends, job opportunities and money are lost, in some cases ending up with loss of life by suicide. As you can see, gambling disorder is a serious condition that must be treated by experts as soon as possible.

Before we consider if old people are the subject of peer pressure or not, it might be useful to see if we understand the concept the same way. Peer pressure is wanting something because you feel that it will make you accepted and valued by those around you.

Peer pressure occurs at any age but is clearly more significant in younger people. An example of peer pressure in older people is when one feels under pressure to either go to a place of worship or make certain declarations about faith (being saved), because all around seem to have made those declarations.

Peer pressure in this case takes place on the expectation that the majority have to be right! The one under peer pressure then makes the declaration even though his heart is not fully convinced.

On the other hand, a teen will puff at a cigarette or take beer even if it tastes awful. It makes him look cool. That the majority are doing it is enough reason for the teenager to take up the habit.

Unknown to many people, one of the most common causes of death among the elderly is loneliness.

Some older people might, due to loneliness drift towards places with some low-level excitement such as a gambling hall. Is it possible that this is what the article you read about the elderly and gambling was all about?

In the event that this is the nexus at play, then the important lesson for the day is that you must take measures to safeguard the lives of the elderly by making sure that they are not lonely and that they do not fall in the temptation of gamblers.