“What makes gambling so addictive?” “How come most people I know that are into gambling are of old age?” These are just some of the few questions that a non-gambling person might ask. Who can blame him/her? The curious person has little to no experience at all with gambling and no exposure to the environment of the casino world, where gambling most often takes place.
It is not shocking to find people of old age at the casinos or involving themselves in gambling. Go to a casino. More often than not, you’ll see that the slot machines are lined up with older adults. Perhaps, because it is an easy and exciting way of winning cash? Or there’s not much thinking involved? These may be the popular opinions as to why elderly people partake in gambling. But in truth, the reason behind it is that old age is linked to loss of self-control, which can cause them to get addicted easily to gambling.
A natural component of aging is the shrinking of the size of the brain’s frontal lobes. A more specific term for this process of shrinking is called atrophy. In this process, the tissues of the frontal lobes in the brain begin to waste away on their own. This leads to a great reduction of executive functioning, which is the brain’s capacity to influence one’s behavior. Less executive functioning means less self-control. This will eventually lead the brain to have a significantly harder time to tell a person when enough is enough. As Natalia S. David, PsyD. says, “Not everyone who gambles has a problem with it. It is important to determine whether or not the other person has an addiction.”
This is the reason why elderly people cannot cease their unhealthy habits of gambling. It might not be so much that they are addicted to gambling and that they do it because they genuinely enjoy the act of gambling. It may be because they have little self-control and can’t stop, even if the gambling costs them.
Progressive effects of lack of self-control
What happens to these older adults who find themselves getting addicted to gambling, but almost always end up losing? This can result in many possible things. One of these is anger issues. That is because “The challenge with anger is finding a way to express it in a way that doesn’t make others want to shut down or become defensive or scared.” John M. Grohol, Psy.D. said.
All of us know the stereotype of elderly people. People usually think of them as grumpy, impatient or reclusive. This image of these people is portrayed in many famous films, wherein the grandparents lose their patience towards their grandchildren, for example. Can this stereotype be applied to the elderly people who gamble? Possibly.
Going back to what was mentioned earlier, elderly people who actively participate in gambling have little self-control, a trait that comes with old age. Loss of self-control can lead to anger issues such as aggression, frustration or vexation dealt by a loss at the casino. But what can they expect? One does not easily win at gambling. A day at the casino will more likely lead to a loss in cash rather than a profit. With that being said, an elderly person who has severe trouble with self-control is highly at risk of losing his/her temper.
“The first step was to understand that our goal was to mainstream addiction treatment into the general delivery of health care.” Navdeep Kang, PsyD explains. So to sum up, self-control is not the only thing that elderly people lose when it comes to aging and gambling. It is also money and a cool head that is lost after gambling.