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2006 N 1st Ave Ste 205 , Anoka, MN 55303

(763) 786-1000

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Seniors and Caffeine Awareness Month

Just the fact that March is caffeine awareness month might make a coffee lover nervous–or is that the caffeine? Because we write primarily for senior awareness, we take the task of evaluating coffee just a little differently than for a readership in their 20s, who may just be starting out on coffee. After all, most seniors have a pretty good grasp on coffee after they hit their retirement years but its overuse could sneak up on you.

Old woman holding a cup of tea and smiling

How much is too much?

While caffeine is not bad for the elderly in low levels, those who drink more than four cups of coffee daily can experience anxiety, headaches, restlessness, and heart palpitations notes the Mayo Clinic. Too much caffeine over-stimulates the nervous system, which could lead to jitters, an upset stomach, and sleep issues.

Coffee has been used for years as a relatively inexpensive drink to enjoy with others, often, at the coffee shop or around the kitchen table. The US navy has provided coffee for years. In 1914, Secretary of the Navy Josephus “Joe” Daniels banned alcohol from all U.S. Navy ships. As this was close to the start of World War I, many young men would soon find themselves aboard a ship where the strongest drink available was coffee or a “cup of joe.” It’s no wonder that senior buildings, like assisted living buildings, provide coffee free in communal areas. It’s just a great-tasting low-cost drink to enjoy whether we are working or socializing. But is it addicting?

According to the National Institute on drug abuse, most adults in the U.S. use caffeine, whether in coffee, soda, energy drinks, or chocolate. Many are also familiar with the effects of suddenly drinking less coffee than usual: tiredness, headaches, insomnia, and other symptoms. And many people talk about being “addicted” to their morning coffee or energy drink! In the case of coffee, it’s not addictive, rather it sets up a dependency rather than a compulsion like you find with an addiction. Coffee is certainly a stimulant but it doesn’t raise dopamine levels high enough to cause an imbalance in the reward system in the brain. So the difference between caffeine dependence and addiction to drugs, like meth, is that even a person who loves to drink coffee can do without it, deal with the headaches and irritability that result, and not engage in destructive (or self-destructive) behavior.

Should you do without coffee?

The benefits and risks of coffee are the subjects of many studies. For instance, according to Healthline, there are a number of beneficial outcomes from drinking coffee.

  • Boosts energy levels. ...
  • It May be linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. ...
  • Could support brain health. ...
  • May promote weight management. ...
  • Linked to a lower risk of depression. ...
  • Could protect against liver conditions. ...
  • Supports heart health. ...
  • Could increase longevity.
  • Enhanced athletic performance
This list doesn’t even touch on the social aspect of coffee. Getting together with friends or relatives at a coffee shop, living room, kitchen, or gathering area is important to our mental health. Mental health is vitally important for seniors so they can continue their independence by having a positive outlook on life. That positive outlook gets seniors off the couch, out of the house, and supports independence.

The same coffee that helps get us going in the morning is a stimulant and it can have a negative impact if not tolerated or managed well. According to Medicine.Net, the negative effects of excessive coffee intake on the body include:
  • Increase in blood pressure.
  • Headache.
  • Nervousness.
  • Restlessness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Heartburn.
  • Increased anxiety levels.
  • Muscle tremors (feeling shaky)

Imagine retiring and having endless time to socialize and drink your favorite coffee. This can lead to a situation where seniors start to experience new issues in their life like not sleeping well or anxiety and think of it as natural aging. If there has been a large increase in coffee usage it might be good to revert back to amounts that were not bothersome before the issues started. Often, if you go to a physician and report issues with heartburn, anxiety, or headaches you may be treated with medications that may not be needed and could set in motion further complications from the medication.

There seem to be fairly balanced amounts of information that says coffee can be both beneficial or harmful depending on the individual. If it is used in moderation then it seems it is a safe and potentially good way to start your day or socialize. So drink up!



Mayo Clinic
National Institute on Drugs

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