As a partner Chambré Public Affairs, was delighted to support the Drink Wise, Age Well (DWAW) programme team in Northern Ireland deliver their advisory group meeting in Stormont this week.
DWAW which is delivered locally by Addiction NI, is a UK wide lottery funded programme that helps people make healthier choices about alcohol as they age. It operates in the Western HSC Trust area. Now in its third year, the annual meeting provides an opportunity to inform policy makers and influencers on activities and research carried out. Participants included Assembly party health spokespersons, and a wide variety of stakeholders from within health and emergency services along with older people representatives.
This year the programme focused on the issue of ageism and discrimination particularly in terms of accessing services, with a report compiled. The evaluation is led by an academic team co-ordinated by the University of Bedforshire’s Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team(SMART). An ultimate aim is to provide an evidence base to guide policy making when addressing alcohol use among the over 50’s.
One of the main themes discussed was the sense of a lack of equality when providing alcohol harm supports to older people, and even public health campaigns. Evidence suggests young people are drinking less, and there needs to be a strategic focus on addressing drinking habits of the older age group. Research around drinking habits, access to treatment services, relevant data and attitudes to older people emerged from the report. Fundamentally access to services should be based on needs and risk, not age. A strategic question is to ensure that policies influence people before they develop any harmful drinking habits, but also recognise it is never to late to intervene and help someone.
In terms of contributory factors the problem of social isolation and breakdown of community values was also raised by group members. The positive impact of voluntary and church groups was highlighted including a project in East Antrim that the includes 6 hubs aimed at supporting older people and combating such isolation.
The local DWAW team continue to provide support and services on the ground to the older 50’s in the Western Trust area. This includes providing free workshops in workplaces and community spaces, training members of the NI Fire and Rescue Service and organising social events, such as this years jive dancing record attempt in Derry.
DWAW will be launching its latest report, ‘Calling Time- Addressing ageism and age discrimination in alcohol research, policy and practice’ at Westminster on 21 November.
To learn more about Drink Wise, Age Well, and how it might benefit you or your friends or family. click here.