When one is not enough, and two is too many – Alcohol Consumption in Retirement Villages

I have just completed six weeks of alcohol abstinence.  My timing co-incided with Ocsober, a month dedicated to fundraising through “loosing the booze”.  I was not fundraising, and I have not met anyone who was participating.  My motivation was to check whether there was any effect on my liver function blood tests.  My liver has never been a happy camper ever since I contracted glandular fever thirty years ago.  I am still waiting for the current blood tests results, and my doctor inadvertently undermined my motivation when he advised that my baseline results were a marked improvement on those of months before.  It suggests that something I did (or did not do) while on holiday in Europe was beneficial to my well-being.  I figure I should just travel permanently 🙂

Leaving aside the reason, what I would like to talk about is the challenges of non-drinking in the Australian society, and my lifestyle in particular.  Excessive alcohol consumption, and binge drinking, are behaviours that are often associated with youth culture.  Images of drunken brawls involving young people out of control scatter across our nightly television news.  HOWEVER, it will surprise many – as it did me when I first heard of it – that there are current studies being undertaken into alcohol consumption in older Australians.  Some studies are actually putting the spotlight on to retirement villages.  One concluded that “Despite the advanced age of this population, regular alcohol use was prevalent“.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8790236

Before I continue, I must stress that in our village we do not get out of control, hit policemen, stagger in the street, lose control of our bodily of functions, or any of that other unsavoury stuff.  Nevertheless – I can attest that we love to party, and that alcohol plays an important social role.

Take this last week, quite a  typical example:-

  • Monday is social golf day.  Afterwards, all the players gather together to hear the results and share a drink.  Once a month, there are nibbles as well.  In the summer months, we turn this into a sausage sizzle, which goes on for a few hours.  The single drink is backed up with bottles of wine and beer.  Last Monday was end of month – you get the idea.
  • Tuesday is ladies card day, and also takeaway dinner for those who don’t want to cook.  People gather in the lounge and bar area for Happy Hour drinks – you get the idea.
  • Wednesday, two mini bus loads of us ladies went shopping. Some had a wine with lunch.  In any case, we were home in time for Trivia Quiz in the lounge.  The bar was open – you get the idea.
  • Thursday evening I went to the local Town Hall to hear a recital on their recently restored organ. (The organ has an interesting history which I may have otherwise blogged about).  Afterwards, people milled to share a wine and chat with the organist and each other – you get the idea.
  • Friday is our original Happy Hour night (which has since grown to encompass Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday as well).  It is the main night of the week when residents gather in the lounge to socialise or go on to dinner.  This week, there was a special pumpkin flavoured beer in honour of Halloween – you get the idea.
  • Saturday I attended the ‘Creative Non-Fiction Festival’ at the NSW Writers Centre.  Afterwards we gathered on the veranda to talk about the day over a glass of wine.  Then I went on to a restaurant dinner with my family……. (at least in driving there it requires that one stays under 0.05).  Back at home, the Saturday ladies card group would be finishing off at Happy Hour.
  • On Sunday Bill played in a mixed golf championship competition.  Had I gone to join him after the round, I would have linked up with the group sharing a few drinks while they waited for the results.  Instead, I stayed home and cooked, and invited a couple of the players home.  Of course, one serves wine with the dinner, more than one bottle.  Either way (golf club or dinner at home) – you get the idea.  (By the way, I made my first ever Lemon Meringue Pie.  Completely from scratch, including the pastry.  Pity the others didn’t come back – now I am getting fat on the leftovers – yum, yum).

So there you have it.  I am living in Party Central.  We are just having far too much fun.

It is not easy working out how to replace alcohol.  I gave up drinking tea and coffee after 5pm years ago.  Water will take you only so far.  This time I took up ginger beer instead, and was having it served in a wine glass to fool myself.  However, I tolerate soft drink in very small amounts, the carbonation blows me up way too much, so two drinks is my limit. (Even with sparkling wine or champagne, I can only handle two glasses at the most).  Then, after a while, I started to notice how much sugar was in the soft drink.  It was leaving a sticky coating in my mouth.  On occasions I had a Coke Zero, but I am not keen on that much either.  I used to clean old coins with it – so what can that do to a stomach?  I dug out an old cocktail book, and the alcohol free section had some interesting ideas, but they needed a few touch up ingredients such as peppermint cordial, grenadine, or angostura bitters, let alone a variety of fruit juices, and I never got around to shopping for those things.  I have tried alcohol free wine in the past and detested it, but as it happens, just as the six weeks came to an end, I bought a new brand.  It is now sitting in the cupboard, together with a bottle of Claytons – “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink” – which I bought at the same time.  Claytons is non-alcoholic and non-carbonated and looks like whisky.  I can’t remember what it tastes like, but it does remind me that I once descended to using rum essence (for cake-making) and mixing it with Coca-Cola to taste like a rum and coke.  I was on a diet that time – which also reminds me: in six weeks of being alcohol free I have not lost any weight!

Well, I have to stop writing now.  I need to go polish my nails.  Tomorrow is Melbourne Cup Day – the race that stops a nation.  Just as well I have come to the end of my abstinence period.  Cup Day is a serious social session in the village.  We dress up, eat a seafood buffet, try our luck on the race sweeps – and – you get guessed it – drink several rounds of beer and wine.

Garrulous Gwendoline, Monday 4th November 2013, Wollongong




17 thoughts on “When one is not enough, and two is too many – Alcohol Consumption in Retirement Villages

  1. I don’t drink alcohol either. In the UK we can get a brand of ginger cordial called Belvoir, I add it to water and it’s so much better than the over-sweet alternatives. And another thought, have you tried non-alcoholic beer? The Spanish stuff is good, and we went to Berlin recently and were both knocked out by their zero beer. SD


    • Thanks for the tips Sandra. That sent me on a shopping expedition. Turns out there are a couple of specialty stores in Sydney that stock Belvoir, or I can order on-line if I take half a dozen. So I will keep that in mind. Beer is not a drink I ever got a taste for, except the occasional Weiss? beer when in Europe. When I asked the guys here if they had heard of non-alcoholic beer they fell about laughing. Again though, I tracked a stockist who has some varieties. I might pay a visit looking particularly for Spanish or German. Thanks again!


  2. I’m not retired…although I haven’t worked for a few years and I know what you mean. I usually drink coffee in the morning, water during the day and a couple of glasses of wine in the evening. I’m quite social, which entails getting together with friends at least twice a week and it could be five times a week if I wanted, but it usually involves drinking. I don’t think right now would be the best time to take a break with the holidays coming…perhaps in January!

    p.s. You’re writing is wonderful!


    • When we moved here five years ago I was the baby of the group. I kept insisting there was a difference between unemployed and retired. For a few months last year, I had a corporate job that ended in a nasty way. But it put enough money in the bank to go on that extended European trip. The two experiences combined to make me decide that looking for employment is a waste of my precious time, and I should just develop as a writer. So to hear that you like my writing style is heartening in a way you could never imagine. I suppose all writers are insecure, but unpublished writers must be at the top of that heap! Thank you so much. GG


    • Great to hear from you – it’s been a while, and thank you so much for the feedback. I am home from travelling now so have more time to read other blogs. Have just started following yours, the comments about photography are valuable!


      • Thanks for your kind words. It has been crazy these last 6 months, and the weeks before Christmas are madness, but I make the effort of reading blogs more again. Like they say: when you have less time, you learn how to organize yourself better 😉


  3. And I was just about to pour a drink! I’ve gone alcohol free for an extended period a few times. The hardest thing for me is not giving up alcohol, but finding an alternative that my month finds interesting. Water can get very repetitive! I find giving up sugar far harder. The 3pm craving is hard work!


    • Well I am glad to hear it is not just me who struggles to find a replacement, but I do hope I didn’t put you off enjoying a quiet one. As for sugar, I am like many women, a few squares of chocolate addresses the low 🙂 BTW At the Creative Non-Fiction Festival one of the presenters was Jason Treuen. He is a music journalist and current editor of Moshcam.com. I mentioned your musical menopause blog to him. He seemed quite interested……..


      • Musical “menopause”? Ha! Not sure if that was intentional, but it’s “Musical Micropause”!! Thanks for mentioning me. Its a bit of fun, but I know I’ve discovered bands on other people’s blogs, so maybe someone will discover something unfamiliar on mine. Back to work now….


        • Hahaha, so obviously my little health break did nothing for my brain. That’s was an accidental slip – I wish I was clever enough to pun intentionally. Sorry! Anyway, I told him the name of your blog – so he might look you up. You could always consider writing some journo style articles for him? (not sure how that works though).


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