Recommended drinking limits for the over-65s should be slashed to take into account the effects of ageing, according to top doctors.
The age group should have separate, lower guidelines on alcohol intake, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists .
Their report suggests current levels are too high because they are based on younger adults.
It says recent evidence shows older men should not drink more than 1.5 units a day, well below the current recommendation of three to four.
Women in the same age group should be advised to drink just one unit a day, rather than two to three, the report says.
Dr Tony Rao, a consultant in old age psychiatry, was among the group that wrote the study entitled Our Invisible Addicts.
He said: "As we age, there are other accompanying factors such as increasing memory problems and physical health problems and less of an ability to get rid of alcohol from the blood stream.
"This means that the effects of what we would currently call the safe limit is actually more damaging for older people."
The RCP claims there is a "burgeoning" public health problem because of growing alcohol and drug abuse among the "baby boomer" generation.
A third of older people with alcohol problems develop them later in life, often because of retirement, bereavement and feelings of boredom and loneliness.
The college recommends screening by GPs for substance misuse among the over-65s as part of a routine health check.
Professor Ilana Crome, professor of addiction psychiatry and chairman of the working group, said: "The traditional view is that alcohol misuse is uncommon in older people, and that the misuse of drugs is very rare.
"However, this is simply not true. A lack of awareness means that GPs and other healthcare professionals often overlook or discount the signs when someone has a problem.
"We hope this report highlights the scale of the problem, and that the multiple medical and social needs of this group of people are not ignored any longer."
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern , said: "We should remember that older people often turn to alcohol in later life as a coping mechanism and this can remain stubbornly hidden from view."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "Alcohol misuse is a major public health issue, no matter what age you are.
"We are already taking action to tackle problem drinking, including plans to stop supermarkets selling below-cost alcohol and working to introduce a tougher licensing regime.
"However, individuals have responsibilities too and everyone should drink responsibly within the recommended alcohol limits.
"All advice is kept under review. We welcome any addition to the evidence base in this area and will consider this report carefully."