Seniors In Sobriety (SIS): A History
From its start in 1990 in Southeastern New York — when Cookie (later to a delegate on Panel 49), Class A Trustee Joan Jackson and other AA members developed a subdivision of the Special Needs Committee entitled Sober Over Sixty — until Stan and Marion B. and others hosted the first Sober Over Sixty* conference in Kona, Hawaii, in May, 2006, there has been a continuing effort to reach out to the still-suffering elder alcoholic. (Our name was recently changed to the more inclusive Seniors in Sobriety [S.I.S.]* to more accurately reflect our makeup).
Alcoholism among older people has reached epidemic proportions, according to the literature we read. Many elders no longer have mobility and, for many reasons, cannot get to a meeting. The baby boomers of the ’50s and ’60s are aging, and this population will increase dramatically in the next 50 years. Alcoholics Anonymous is responding to the “Hidden Epidemic” of the elder alcoholic
The first “Carrying the Message to the Older Alcoholic” meeting took place during the 11th International AA Convention in Minneapolis in July, 2000. Since that first”nod” from the World Service Organization that this, indeed, was an issue that deserved attention and discussion, many strides have been made.
1. The August/September, 2002, Box 459 ran the article “Carrying the Message to the Older Alcoholic.”
2. In mid-2003 an ad hoc committee, Cooperation with the Elder Community, was formed in Area 17, District 8, in Hawaii and became a standing committee in May, 2004.
3. In July, 2004, an ad hoc committee, Cooperation with the Elder Community was formed in Area 09, mid-southern California. In May, 2005, it became a permanent standing committee.
4. Area 03, Arizona, authorized an ad hoc Cooperation with the Elder Community committee in May, 2006.
5. The October/November, 2006, Box 459 ran the article “Seniors in Sobriety Becoming a Focus”
6. Seniors in Sobriety meetings are springing up all over the country, from Colorado to New York to Florida and elsewhere. This truly is an idea whose time has come.
Significant challenges were encountered in both Hawaii and California during the ad hoc period. A large number of people believed that elders should come under the auspices of the Special Needs Committee and that a new committee was not required to meet this need. The most appropriate response to this was and is “The process of aging is not a special need but a universal phase of life with its own blessings and challenges.” This same story is currently being repeated in Area 03.
Doug W., a member of the CEC in Area 09, stated “My main point at the Area Assembly was that the committee would help carry the load rather than invade other committees’ turf. I also used the source material to propose that my District include CEC as a standing District committee and made myself available to answer questions. I found unexpected support and opposition at all sessions. ”
There is a mountain of material that validates the seriousness of problem drinking among elders. This same material concludes that little is being done about it. For example, one survey shows that the prevalence of problem drinking in nursing homes is as high as 49%, yet less than 17% of treatment facilities have programs tailored for elders. Another statistic was that elders have recovery rates as high as 85%, IF THEY ARE INTRODUCED TO TREATMENT PROGRAMS!
Many of us first heard Marion and Stan B. speak about alcoholism and the elder and became passionate about wanting the hand of AA always to be there for the elder alcoholic. Marion passed on this year and we miss her guidance, motivation and general good cheer terribly, but the legacy she left has made an indelible impression on all of us and on Alcoholics Anonymous