Seniors and Sex

by Audrey Miller on January 3, 2010

in Articles & Blogs by Audrey, Dementia, Family Conflict

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By: Audrey Miller MSW, RSW, CCRC, CCLCP
March 2010

Let’s talk sex.  While Valentine’s day, our Hallmark holiday, may have come and gone, romance and sex continue to be alive and well.  The baby boomers are getting older and while 60 has become the new 40, and 75 the new 60, healthy sex continues to be a favorite topic.

It is important to remember that sex is not solely the act of coitus, but a concept of sexuality much broader than that. It includes all aspects of sensuality, self-esteem, communication and relationship. It includes all forms of sexual expression from flirtation and dating to physical touch and sexual partnering, whether gay or straight, lesbian, bi or transgendered, with a partner or without.

Dr. Patricia Brown presents some statistics in her publication “Sex in the Later Years” (08/17/2005) that shows 87% of married men and 89% of married women in the 60-64 age range are sexually active. Those numbers drop with advancing years, but 29% of men and 25% of women over the age of 80 are still sexually active. The increased awareness for safe sex measures is important as people meet new partners throughout the aging process.

As we age, lifestyles and relationships also begin to change – but not necessarily for the worse. Understanding how your body has changed and what this may mean for your own sex life is a key factor in allowing you to continue having an active lifestyle. This new understanding may need to include hormonal changes, medication side effects, acquired disabilities or illnesses, change of sexual partner, or other life responsibilities. Once you understand what you are working with, you will be better prepared for sexual expression.

Regardless of your own personal definition of sexuality and what it means for different age groups, it should include an understanding of safe sex and sexually transmitted disease awareness. People often assume that once someone becomes a senior that they also become asexual. This is simply not true.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada there has been an increase in the number of HIV positive tests and AIDS diagnoses among older Canadians, now accounting for 15% of the total. The AIDS diagnoses for people over the age of 40 has accounted for the majority of cases since 2000 and in the year 2007 exceeded 60.0% of all reported AIDS diagnoses for the first time.

It is important that discussions are held with people of all ages around safe sex practices regardless of one’s own bias’ associated with senior’s sexuality.

Sexual relationships between residents of retirement/long term care homes who have dementia is another area where better understanding is needed.  Staff at long term care homes are not quite sure how to respond to questions regarding sexual activity amongst residents.  There are issues in regards to consent, and when participants may be married to others.  There is a need for discussion, staff education, and guidelines so that appropriate guidelines and practices can be developed accordingly.

A few on-line resources to consider include:

 

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