Older drinkers are becoming the target of awareness programmes as charities focus on the “hidden problem” of over-50s drinking.

Drinks trade-funded Drinkaware is set to launch a programme targeting older drinkers next year, while drug and alcohol treatment provider Addaction has already launched a £2.5 million, five-year campaign with the same goal.

Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “Next year we are targeting older consumers. There is a hidden problem with older drinkers.”

Addaction’s campaign is funded by the Big Lottery and includes peer mentoring and awareness campaigns specifically targeted at over-50s.

Head of events David Badcock said older people left isolated by bereavement, families moving away, retirement or other changes in their lives might turn to alcohol, but be so lonely that they would not know help was available to them.

“Older drinkers are often more hidden in our society,” he said.

“Our aim is that those over-50s struggling with life transitions get the support they need so they are less likely to turn to alcohol as a way of coping.”

Addaction defines three tiers of problem drinkers: addicts, binge-drinkers and those with an increasing or higher risk.

“The last is the group on the increase and probably the least talked about, where people are drinking too much but not associating themselves with having addiction or needing structured support,” said Badcock.

“Our view is that alcohol from a public health perspective is the most dangerous substance for people, and it costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year.”

James Morris, director of alcohol harm reduction body the Alcohol Academy, said alcohol consumption has been falling since a peak in 2004 at the height of RTD popularity.

“Older adults are the only group where it has remained steady, and need to be more of a policy focus,” he said. “Prevention is really important.”