New research on wine's positive role in the care and diet of older people was released this month in Alcohol and Old Age, by Drs. Brian Mishara and Robert Kastenbaum. A balanced review of alcohol's use and misuse by individuals in their later years is included, based on the practical experience of the two renowned gerontologists.
New data presented in their book suggests that physicians, dietitians, nurses, social workers, and hospital and nursing home administrators "add the benefits associated with wine to a growing set of concepts and procedures that seem useful in helping people of advanced years to function well."
The pessimistic view that old age is a grim and unrewarding time of life and that there is little reason to improve the lot of the elderly is at variance with the facts, according to Mishara and Kastenbaum.
While the book reviews the historical use of wine by the elderly for the last 5,000 years, most encouraging is the new data based on six years of research by Dr. Kastenbaum, Superintendent, Cushing Hospital, Department of Mental Health, Framingham, Massachusetts. His concept was generated by a psychobiological theory that "wine, used regularly and in moderation, might improve sleep, sense of well-being, and cognitive and coping skills."
Here are some of the findings that resulted from the study of elders who consumed three to six ounces of wine per day.
"The strongest and most consistent finding throughout the course of this study was the improvement of sleep quality. The general improvement took the form of reduced lag time between going to bed and falling asleep, fewer nocturnal awakenings, and enhanced sense of satisfaction with a particular nights sleep."
Using games of darts in their research, Kastenbaum and Mishara report "significant improvement" in dexterity. The elders appeared to have "more 'zip' in the throws, which resulted in more darts lodging in the target," as well as an improvement in accuracy.
Regarding personal insight and reflection, "the most salient impression was that the individual qualities of each participants life emerged more clearly during the on-wine period." In discussing their life experience, "the elderly men and women in this study seemed more able (or) more inclined to express their own distinctive view of their own lives than to come across as a stereotyped 'old person* after they had been using wine regularly."
"Fairly consistent and positive findings on several other measures appeared to relate to an increased sense of zest or confidence." The heightened motivation for an affirmative mode of being was directly evident.
Because the book positively states the benefits to be derived from moderate consumption of wine as well as outlines the necessity for appropriately identifying and treating problem drinkers, its message should be of special interest to everyone concerned with the well-being of the aged