Yang was sitting in front of the screen mesmerized by the online game in which he was participating. He was wholly engrossed in the task before him. Even nature’s urges were not an issue as the pad lining his underwear was doing its job. He was focused on one thing; winning.
Yang is not a senior citizen but a student whose life has been taken over by an addiction so pervasive that even the need to urinate does not deter him from leaving his computer. While we associate panty liners with the elderly, in China, some of the young are resorting to them to feed their addiction.
According to a February 12, 2016, article in The Telegraph, China has over 600 million internet users––the largest in the world––with 24 million suffering from online addiction. The Chinese have officially defined internet addiction as a mental disorder and occurs when someone spends more than 6 hours continuously online that is unrelated to the conduct of one’s business or studying.
Special boot camps have been cropping up across the country to treat this addiction, instigated by parents worried about their children avoiding school and study.
Addiction is a physical or psychological dependency where you perceive that you will receive more positive than negative input, and, therefore, you are fulfilling your values while these are at odds with the values of society as a whole. Hence, society labels the activity addiction. The reality is that everyone has an addiction of one sort or another, and the over 50 crowd is not immune to this.
The five commonly recognized addictions are drugs, gambling, alcohol, sex, and food. The list, however, is much larger with internet and smartphone usage becoming commonplace even for seniors.
Drugs are pervasive in our society. We hear of young people addicted to methamphetamines and other stimulants, but older age drug addiction is also an issue. Remember that the baby boomers grew up on sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Some have never left these “social” drugs. Their drug addiction impairs their ability to function at full capacity.
Many seniors—especially those who have health issues—are on a cocktail of multiple prescription drugs. Once they get on this treadmill, it is hard to get off the drugs. The brain learns the reward of symptom relief and in time, depending on the drug, addiction is the result.
The gambling addiction often starts early in life and can progress to our senior years. Gambling can take many forms; seniors glued to slot machines in Las Vegas or spending all of one’s spare cash on lotto tickets.
When retirees are on a limited income such as a pension, they are placing themselves in an even more vulnerable financial position. Sometimes they may even go without their basic food needs to satisfy their gambling addiction.
Alcohol is a vice that costs society big time. For the elderly, the lack of motivation or purpose in retirement can mean attachment to booze. Alcoholism in the older age group is often devastating with rapid deterioration of health leading to conditions such as liver and heart disease, depression and acceleration of dementia.
Because of the desire to feed their need for alcohol, seniors can quickly end up in financial strife.
As with other age groups, dealing with alcoholism in seniors often means the deterioration of relationships between spouses and other family members.
In our latest book, we described a man in his seventies who “needed” sex four times a day, despite his age. Most people would consider him a sex addict. His partner was content to engage in sexual activity once a day. Obviously, there is a problem in such a relationship. Because of the man’s addiction and particular needs in the relationship, this can be quite destructive.
Therapists are available to deal with sex addiction. It is a matter of teaching the brain an alternative way of acquiring a reward. The better that we feel about ourselves, the less likely we are to seek out such addictive behaviors.
As people age, they tend to become less active, and their metabolism slows down. Consequently, their caloric needs are lower. Unfortunately, we often see the opposite happening. Seniors become addicted to sweets and highly processed carbohydrates.
If you have ever been on a cruise, you will see these individuals already overweight, gorging themselves on all the wrong foods. Sugar is a particularly addictive substance and the longer that we have a dependency on the sweet stuff, the more difficult it is to overcome. Excessive sugar consumption is a poison to our system.
There are minor addictions that don’t drastically affect one’s life. For example, if someone has an addiction to classical music, it might only be an annoyance to that person’s spouse. However, the major ones that we have discussed need to be addressed and often quickly.
The first thing is to acknowledge your addiction and then seek professional help. It’s a matter of your physical health and interpersonal relationships.
Editor’s Note: Dr Adele Thomas, semi-retired medical doctor, and Dr Ely Lazar, retired chiropractor, are on a new mission as the Passionate Retirees. They are dedicated to inspiring the over 50s to live fulfilling and adventurous lives, so that “the twilight years will be the highlight years”. Their book, “Travel Secrets For Seniors” was released in early 2014. With more than 80 years combined of professional experience, their articles, books and workshops cover a range of topics from travel, health, relationships, sexuality and finances for seniors.