It seems the country could be on the cusp of an epidemic of old-age drinking. I admit I was thoroughly sceptical when the idea was first described to me. I thought I knew a good deal about the lives of older people. As the Government’s so-called tsar for the old, I met, talked to and corresponded with many of them. I got to know about care homes and retirement crises, of pension shortcomings and the fears of dying. But I never once came up against the problem of late-onset drinking.
This is rather revealing, is it not? Bakewell has for years been a professional old person. As she says, she spends a great deal of time with elderly people from all walks of life. If she has not not noticed the "epidemic", she has either been wearing blinkers or the epidemic does not exist.
That’s why I took some convincing. But I now know the evidence is there.
And the evidence is?
Fact: last year more older people were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses than those in the 16 to 24 age group.
Apples and oranges. The two groups are of completely different sizes and cannot be meaningfully compared. Besides, elderly people are far more likely to be admitted to hospital for obvious reasons and therefore make up a disproportionate share of 'alcohol-related' admissions thanks to the questionable "attributable fractions" system.
Fact: an estimated 1.4 million over-65s are drinking too much.
That is not a fact. It is opinion. The criteria used by the medical establishment to decide how much is too much is based on figures that were "plucked out of the air. They weren't really based on any firm evidence at all." It is for the individual to decide when they have drunk "too much".
Fact: according to the Alzheimer’s Society, excessive alcohol over long periods of time increases the risk of a dementia-like condition.
Perhaps. But there are several studies showing the opposite—that drinking reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. This study, for example, found that drinking halved the risk of dementia. This one found that drinking reduced the risk of dementia by half and reduced the risk of Alzheimer's by a third.
These are the three "facts" which have persuaded Bakewell to disregard the evidence of her eyes and abandon her scepticism. The first is irrelevant, the second is untrue and the third is, at best, contentious. How easy it is for the spivs of the temperance lobby to pull the wool over someone's eyes.
There is, however, still room for anecdote...
Barbara is in her seventies and since being widowed has lived alone. She and her husband were enjoying a happy retirement in France’s expat community. But his illness and death plunged her into gloom. Come 4pm, she starts on the wine and downs a bottle a day.
As Tim Worstall says:
Dear God, what horrors! A little old lady widow must not be allowed to have a bottle of wine a day! Think of how productive she could be without it!
Puritanical little tosspots.
Panorama is on at 7.30 pm. Afterwards, you can switch to Channel 4 to see a Dispatches "investigation" into academy schools which are—brace yourself—allowing children to buy sweets!
Out of 108 academies that responded to the requests, 29 were selling chocolate and other confectionery, nine admitted selling fizzy drinks and seven sold energy drinks such as Red Bull.
Expect to see that fat-tongued fool Jamie Oliver weeping.