The increase of elderly marijuana use in assisted living communities and retirement homes is on the rise. We’ll explore what’s been happening and what could happen in the future in today’s post.
Medical Marijuana for Elderly Folks
It’s an early-spring evening with a bit of a chill in the air, and there are a dozen elderly patients ranging in age from 68 to 82 sitting around a glowing red-brick fire pit at their retirement home. The fire pit is in the middle of a large courtyard, surrounded by mature oak trees and pink geranium plants blooming in pots, and a rainbow of colors of petunias just beginning to blossom in the soil along the courtyard wall. The sun is on its way down and the people are passing something around the circle, a thin vape pen paired with a Girl Scout Cookies medical marijuana oil cartridge. They each take a sharp inhale of the vape pen, then pass it on to the next person. A couple of others had already started on their caffeine-free tea spiked with cannabis honey and so they pass on the vape pen.
They’re quiet at first, then an attendant approaches and asks if they’d like some tea or juice or water. They all nod, asking for their desired refreshment. The attendant leaves, then one gent with a bushy mustache and eyebrows to match looks at his neighbor and starts grinning. His neighbor grins as well and exhales, and a small amount of fragrant vape cloud escapes her lips. It actually has a faint sweet smell.
“It’s good – yes?” he asks.
“Very,” she replies.
On the other side of the circle someone is describing the brilliant orange sunrise he captured that morning with his camera, waving his arms about for emphasis. And another is asking his neighbor what will be served in the dining room that evening. Someone jokes about the rubber chicken and they all laugh then someone else launches into another joke and they’re off, trading barbs and jokes and good natured teasing, enjoying themselves immensely.
After visiting a while they will rise and walk into the building, looking forward to their evening meal.
This is potentially daily life at a retirement community or assisted living home in the very near future. In California there is already a large retirement community in Walnut Creek that has a club for medical marijuana education and instruction.
It’s an interesting phenomenon that’s been slowly growing over the past few years. Boomers and senior citizens are returning to a substance that’s been around forever, something they thought they had left behind in their youth but that has more appeal to them now. And that substance is medical marijuana.
Why the Upward Trend in Elderly Marijuana Use?
There are many reasons why older folks are turning to marijuana now in their golden years. They use it for:
- Alleviating pain from arthritis, neuropathy, and muscle spasms
- A relaxing sleep aid
- An appetite stimulant
- Socializing and sharing the experience
- Mood elevation and lifting depression
- A substitute for alcohol
- Stimulation of the brain and creativity
- A desire for a holistic and natural approach to aging
This is a demographic that can benefit from MMJ’s use the most, and they are trying it in ever-increasing numbers. Another factor is that some of the pharmaceuticals they are taking have such horrific side effects that it makes their lives just miserable, and that’s no way to live out your last years.
My mother took handfuls of pills every morning. Pills for bone pain, pills for acid reflux, pills for high blood pressure, pills for depression, pills to help her sleep, pills for blood thinners, and so on and so on. Her last years were not good ones and she struggled with vascular dementia towards the end. I wish she would have considered trying medical marijuana, but her doctor would have discouraged her from doing so if she had asked him about using it. Medical marijuana would have possibly helped her – it wouldn’t have made her feel any worse, I know that for a fact.
There will come a time when people will be free to choose how they want to live and not be pressured into taking many damaging drugs that in all likelihood are doing more damage than good. I think that time is coming soon.
How are Assisted Living Facilities / Retirement Homes Handling This?
Very carefully. While they want their residents to enjoy good health and thus use whatever they need to accomplish that goal, they also have worries about the negative effects that medical marijuana could have from overuse.
Balance and being unsteady on their feet can be an issue for an elderly person, and it is true that if a person is challenged in that area to begin with, marijuana may exacerbate the problem.
There’s also the legalities of it to consider. Most facilities don’t want to run afoul of federal law in any way, and so may forbid MMJ on the premises but look the other way if a resident relies on it for pain relief or a sleep aid. Kind of a “don’t ask – don’t tell” approach.
A good alternative for those facilities that don’t want to take the chance of federal legal problems would be to suggest CBD oil to their residents. Since it’s legal to use as a supplement in all 50 states in the U.S. they wouldn’t need to worry as much as they might with MMJ.
Here is an interesting article addressing the issue from the New York Times: When Retirement Comes With a Daily Dose of Cannabis.
What the Future Holds
Because older folks vote more often and have quite a bit of influence at the polls, they will be voting for legalization and also pressuring politicians to take marijuana off of the DEA’s Schedule 1 classification. Once they realize how a humble plant can help their overall health and alleviate pain they will see the folly of it being illegal. Medical marijuana will then be legal nation-wide and not just in a few states.
This is just my opinion, but I hope it comes to pass. I also hope that retirement homes are replaced by communes. But that’s just me. I’m just an old hippy at heart. :^)
The Next Post
We’re going to explore a controversial topic: Does medical marijuana help cure cancer? It’s a fascinating subject, and there’s lots of evidence that it can.
Thanks for reading my posts!