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Research to help older people access alcohol and drug rehabilitation services

Older people drinking

Mon 4th February, 2019

Older people will find it easier to access alcohol and drug rehabilitation services thanks to research from the University of Bedfordshire.

Public Health England (PHE) decided to remove age fields from their online rehab directory following advice from Drink Wise, Age Well, a programme led by drug and alcohol charity Addaction, as a result of research conducted by the University’s Substance Misuse & Ageing Research Team.

The research, funded by Alcohol change UK, revealed that 75% of the 118 services listed on Rehab Online - a directory of residential rehabilitation services in England and Wales - had an upper age limit that would exclude older adults. The restrictions varied depending on the rehab but ranged from age 50 to 90.

PHE agreed that age limits on Rehab Online might be acting as an unintended barrier for older adults. The age fields have now been removed from this online resource.

While the removal of age fields is a small change, it may help older adults to get the specialist support that they need to address their drinking and/ or drug misuse sooner.

Dr Sarah Wadd, Director of the Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team at the University, said: “Everyone should have equal access to alcohol rehabs, regardless of their age.  Even a simple change like this has the potential to open up treatment to older adults and we are delighted that Public Health England has taken such positive action.”

Julie Breslin, Head of Drink Wise, Age Well said: “We really welcome this decision by Public Health England. It removes a potential barrier to treatment for older people. They’re a high-risk group when it comes to alcohol so we need to do everything we can to make sure the best possible treatment is available. It’s a really positive example of the difference we can make when we work together to solve a problem.”

Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK said: “It's vital that older adults have full access to alcohol rehabilitation centres when requiring residential treatment. PHE's decision is a great step forward.

“It’s even more important that rehab facilities remove nominal age restrictions and any informal age discrimination so they’re genuinely welcoming to older people. We look forward to seeing these changes happen too.”

Bedfordshire University

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