Golden Fortunes

Why is gambling so popular among the elderly?

In Washington State there are a number of casinos, many of which are owned by Native American tribes.  A short while back I went to one such casino, not that I’m a gambler, but because a friend and her husband wanted to end the night with a little dancing.  Since the dancing didn’t start until later, we walked around the casino out of curiosity.  What immediately struck me was the pervasive stale smell of cigarette smoke and the noise from different machines.  The next element that caught my attention was the number of older people, some tethered to oxygen tanks with canes at their sides, in front of slot machines or at the tables.

Casinos and the elderly have been paired together like ham and eggs for quite some time.  Even my retired father, who’s never been quick to part with a dollar, occasionally goes on bus trips with his local seniors center to Atlantic City or other casinos in the Poconos.  Now mind you, he doesn’t go on these casino trips to gamble; he goes on these trips for a day out, the free buffet, and the $10 the casino gives the elderly for games in the hope that they’ll be drawn in to play (and pay) more.

Some elderly and retired people go to the casinos for reasons similar to those of my father, but what attraction do casinos hold for the others?  When you stop and think, it’s sad what causes some elderly people seek out casinos.  Some are widowed and alone with long days filled with little to do.  They go to the casinos to be among people, to be given attention, and to be respected.  They go to have something to do and to have the hope of winning some extra money, which more often than not doesn’t happen.  What usually results is the elderly not only losing their children’s inheritance, but also their own limited monthly income.

Shouldn’t there be better places than casinos for the elderly to spend their golden years?  Shouldn’t there be more neighborhood classes and library programs that the retired can attend on a regular basis to give them something to anticipate?  What about support and social groups sensitive to the needs of older people?  Maybe the elderly, with years of life experience, can make contributions to their communities by sharing their experience and knowledge.  I wonder why aren’t the elderly valued as a vital and integral part of society?

Why, indeed.

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