Background: The lifetime prevalence of problem or Gambling disorder (GD) in the elderly (i.e., those over 60 years old) is reported to range from 0.01 to 10.9%. Research has identified several specific risk factors and vulnerabilities in the elderly. Since the late 1990s, an increase in online GD has been observed in the youth population, whereas casinos, slot machines, and bingo seem to be the activities of choice among the elderly. Interestingly, online GD has not been described in the elderly to date.
Case Description: We report an 83-year-old man who started online casino gambling from the age of 80 years, leading to debts that exceeded €30,000. He underwent a full clinical and neuropsychological assessment, without any evidence of cognitive impairment or any associated neurodegenerative disease. However, he had risk factors for GD, including adjustment disorder, stressful life events, previous offline casino GD when 50 years old, and dysfunctional personality traits. The change to online GD may have been due to his isolation, movement difficulties, and his high level of education, which facilitated his access to the Internet. Care management focused on individual cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Conclusion: The prevalence of online GD may be underestimated among the elderly, and may increase among isolated old people with movement difficulties and ready access to the Internet. However, late-life GD should be considered a diagnosis of elimination, requiring a full medical, psychiatric (including suicide risk), and cognitive assessment. Specific therapeutic approaches need to be proposed and developed.