Alcohol problems are on the increase among people aged 50 and older, but treatment to this category is still often a neglected issue in practical social work. The aim of this presentation is to discuss how middle-aged and older people with ongoing and long-term alcohol problems reflect on continuity and change in later life.
The paper is based on interviews with a narrative approach with six women and 13 men, between 56 – 69 years of age. Their drinking fulfilled the ICD 10 criteria for alcohol dependence syndrome and the alcohol problems had lasted between 20 – 40 years. The analysis was inspired by thematical narrative methods.
The way the participants make sense of their drinking is interwoven with their experiences from everyday life. Drinking is portrayed as a way of dealing with health problems, strained financial situations, lack of social networks and structure as well as with withdrawal symptoms. Knowing that continued drinking might lead to death, several participants are, however, reflecting over how they want to live and some are making attempts to overcome their drinking problems.
The participants illustrates that the past and the present connects to their futures as their fear of death raises existential reflections and prompts attempts to quit drinking. The presence of the past does not necessary mean continuity over life time and older people wish to overcome their problems, even after decades of drinking, hold potentials for changing the life trajectory. The findings challenge prevailing ideas about social work with older people and illustrate how an ambition to change and treat may improve the quality of life of older individuals with social problems.