Heath and Aging

Older Adults and Alcohol: You Can Get Help

Your questions answered

Q. I have been drinking for most of my adult life. Is it too late to quit?

collage of older people
Changing a drinking habit may not be easy, but it can be done.

A. No. Many older adults decide to quit drinking later in life. Treatment can work! Changing an old habit is not easy, but it can be done.

Q. My neighbor was never much of a drinker, but since he retired I see him sitting in the backyard every day, drinking. Is it really possible for someone to start to have a drinking problem later in life?

A. Some adults do develop a drinking problem when they get older. Health worries, boredom after retirement, or the death of friends and loved ones are some of the reasons why older people start drinking. Feeling tense or depressed can also sometimes be a trigger for drinking.

Q. What counts as one drink?

A. One drink is equal to one of the following:

bottle of beer One 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer, ale, or wine cooler
bottle of malt liquor One 8- or 9-ounce can or bottle of malt liquor
glass of wine One 5-ounce glass of red or white wine
shot of brown liquid

One 1.5-ounce shot glass of hard liquor (spirits). The label will say 80 proof or less. Spirits include whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, and other hard liquors.

Drinks may be stronger than you think. Some mixed drinks may have more than one 1.5-ounce shot of liquor in them.

Q. What's too much for a person over age 65 to drink each week? Each day?

A. Everyone is different. If you are healthy and 65 years or older, you should not have more than 7 drinks in a week. Don't have more than 3 drinks on any given day.

Do you have a health problem? Are you taking certain medicines? You may need to drink less or not drink at all. Talk to your doctor.

Q. Is it true that drinking a glass of red wine every day is good for my health?

A. This may be true for some people, but if you have a problem with alcohol, it's better for you to avoid drinking at all. You can get many of the same health benefits from a glass of grape juice. Ask your doctor or another healthcare worker for advice.

Q. I am worried that my cousin Ruby has a drinking problem. We play cards every week and she drinks through most of the game. The other women in our group have noticed this as well. When I told Ruby we were worried, she just laughed. Is there anything we can do?

A. It isn’t always easy to get people to say that they have a drinking problem. Some older adults may be ashamed about their drinking. Others may feel their drinking doesn’t hurt anyone. See For family, friends, and caregivers to learn how you can offer support and get help for yourself.

Publication Date: June 2011
Page Last Updated: August 19, 2014