Myths and Realities of Alcohol, Medications, and Mental Health Conditions in Older Adults


Only older adults who consistently drink a lot of alcohol have an alcohol problem


Feeling sad or depressed is part of growing old. There’s nothing you can do to help the older adult.


Older adults suffering from depression or anxiety disorders lack inner strength to fight

the debilitating feelings.


The key point in determining a problem is how the alcohol affects the person’s health, functioning, and relationships with others. For example, in people with medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, even one drink per day can be a problem.


Depression is common among older adults, but it isn’t a normal part of aging. Believing that depression is inevitable prevents older people from seeking and getting the help they need.


Depression and anxiety disorders have many possible causes. Lack of inner strength is not one of them. Causes of depression and anxiety include heredity, stressful events such as the death of a loved one, retirement, health problems, and reactions to medicine. Drug interactions and alcohol and drug combinations can also lead to depression and anxiety.

*SAMSHA, Get Connected: Linking Older Adults with Resources on Medication, Alcohol, and Mental Health


Friendship Line

Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line is the only accredited crisis line in the country for people aged 60 years and older, and adults living with disabilities. We also make on-going outreach calls to lonely older adults. While there are other organizations that respond to the needs of people who may be contemplating suicide, none provides the type of services that IOA’s Friendship Line offers to respond to the public health problem of suicide among the elderly. Knowing that older people do not contact traditional suicide prevention centers on a regular basis even if they are considering suicide, we created the only program nationwide that reaches out to lonely, depressed, isolated, frail and/or suicidal older adults. Our trained volunteers specialize in offering a caring ear and having a friendly conversation with depressed older adults.

The Friendship Line is both a crisis intervention hotline and a warmline for non-emergency emotional support calls. Founded in 1973 by Dr. Patrick Arbore, Director of IOA’s Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention, and accredited by the American Association of Suicidology, Friendship Line provides round-the-clock crisis support services including:

  • Providing emotional support
  • Elder abuse reporting
  • Well-being checks
  • Grief support through assistance and reassurance
  • Active suicide intervention

Information and referrals for isolated older adults, and adults living with disabilitiesIn addition to receiving incoming calls, Friendship Line also offers outreach to eligible callers. We connect with people on a regular basis, and help monitor their physical and mental health concerns. The call-out services act as an intervention to prevent suicide in the long term by improving the quality of life and connectedness of isolated callers. Any aging adult or person living with disabilities, who suffers from depression, loneliness, isolation, anxiousness, or may be thinking about death or suicide, can benefit from completely confidential phone calls with Friendship Line volunteers. Sometimes the road to happiness begins by simply saying hello to someone who cares.