Elizabeth Papettas, 73, was a mother of five young children when she first experienced the consequences of risky gambling. Her then husband, who controlled the finances, loved to gamble and drink with friends. She quickly learnt that if she didn’t go to the restaurant where he worked as soon as he got paid each week, his wage was gone.
At 50, Elizabeth divorced her husband, got a job as a live-in nanny and started enjoying the freedom of earning her own money. And, for the first time in her life, she started gambling.
The pokies seemed a safe place for a woman my age to go on her own in the evening,Elizabeth recalls.
As I lived where I worked, I had no household bills to pay, so most weeks I’d gamble my whole wage. Sometimes I’d lie to my children about why I had to borrow money from them.
It was stealing money from her friend’s purse that was the catalyst for Elizabeth joining Gamblers Anonymous.
Two years ago, when her counsellor asked her if she wanted to volunteer for the Gambler’s Help Peer Connection program, she jumped at the chance.
The program gives phone support to people going through rough times like I did, she says.
As a recovering compulsive gambler, I can empathise with those who still gamble and struggle to live a normal life free from gambling. One of my clients says our call is the highlight of her fortnight, and that makes me feel good.
Louise Glanville, CEO of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, says older people are not immune to gambling harm.
Sometimes a traumatic life event, such as losing a loved one, can act as a trigger a person to start gambling in a risky way. Older people can also feel isolated and may see going to the pokies as an opportunity for company and to socialise, Louise says.
It’s important to have options, which is why the Foundation funds a range of alternative recreational activities for older people, as well as support services for people who need them.
If you have experienced harm from your own or someone else’s gambling, you can call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858 for free and confidential support. You can also telephone Gambler’s Help Peer Connection on 1300 133 445 to talk to someone who has gone through a similar experience.
For more information about the Prevention Partnership program which includes culturally diverse information sessions, please email:firstname.lastname@example.org