Sexuality and Sexual Health are important aspects of lived-experience, but the taboo that still exists around notions of sex and sexuality in general discourse are amplified to an even greater degree in the case of seniors.
In this day and age, there is greater openness and willingness to have important conversations regarding sexuality, sexual expression, and sexual health than there was even just a decade ago, and a great deal of attention has been placed upon shaping understandings and discussions of sexuality to better promote safe, healthy, and fulfilling sexual relationships. The reality is, however, that these efforts are most often directed towards those in adolescence and adulthood, and very little emphasis has been placed upon working to promote a willingness to talk about the sexualities of older members of the population. Popular discourse tends to support the notion that seniors and older adults lack any form of sexual drive or desire. The common understanding, influenced in large part by the taboo that still accompanies discussions of seniors’ sexualities, is that older individuals no longer take part in sexual activity or have the same degree of sexual desire as younger members of the population. Contrary to these beliefs, however, sexual intimacy continues to be an enriching and important aspect of life for many seniors.
Yes, Seniors Are Still Having Sex
Sex is an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, and even with the attempts made over recent years to reduce the negative connotation and taboo previously associated with notions of sex and sexuality, most of us aren’t quite comfortable casually discussing sex in everyday conversations quite yet. Throw in the added variable of talking about sex amongst individuals of a more advanced age, and most people are rushing to change the subject before the conversation even begins. For many people, it is easier to pretend that their ageing parents, family members, or acquaintances are just not having sex at all than it is to think about the realities of understanding or discussing senior intimacy and sexuality.
The truth is, that most seniors are engaged in intimate sexual relationships in their older age, whether it be within a marriage, or outside of one for those seniors who are single or dating.
While the ways in which sexuality is expressed and explored may undergo changes over the course of one’s life, sexual desire and needs of intimacy don’t simply cease to exist one a certain age is reached.
Seniors and Safe Sex
As previously mentioned, the vast majority of efforts related to education and promotion of safe sex and good sexual health have been directed towards younger individuals and, for this reason, making sure that seniors are educated and actively engaging in practices of safe sex has often been overlooked.
With more seniors dating in their older age following divorce or the death of a spouse than ever before, casual sex or sex outside of committed, long-term relationships is a normal aspect of life for many older adults. This, coupled with the fact that comprehensive sexual education wasn’t provided to youth in the time that today’s seniors were young and the fact that little sexual education is directed to older adults now, means that today’s seniors might not have a lot of knowledge about safe sex practices. Studies have indicated that the instances of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) amongst the senior population, is on the rise.
Having the Conversations
Despite the fact that it may make us a little uncomfortable to think about at times, the reality is that seniors are having sex. When caring for a senior loved one, it is important to make sure that all of their needs are properly met and tended to, and sexual health and wellbeing shouldn’t be ignored just because they involve an uncomfortable conversation. Opening a dialogue with seniors about their sexual health, whether they be married or dating, is important, especially in terms of making sure that they are made aware of how to protect themselves and have safe sex.