News Satire People Food Other

The Myth That Older Australians Don’t Have Sex

By Matty Silver, Sex Therapist on May 21, 2015 in Other

Photo: Lou Bricant

Photo: Lou Bricant

Some months ago I spoke to a man who had a dilemma and needed some advice. His 73 year-old mother-in-law, who has early dementia, had been living in a nursing home for about six months. A staff member contacted him and told him that his mother-in-law had started a relationship with another resident. They were seen kissing and holding hands, often spending time in each other’s rooms.

My client felt that as long as the relationship was consensual, it should not be a problem; he had noticed she seemed happier lately and couldn’t understand why the nursing home felt it necessary to inform him. But his wife was outraged – she had never seen her parents show any affection at all, and the thought that her mother might be having sex with a ‘stranger’ was abhorrent to her.

In today’s society many people believe that old people are not sexual anymore and often managers of aged-care facilities think so too. Nursing home residents should be able to enjoy a healthy sex life, which is important to their psychological and physical wellbeing. It shouldn’t be taboo. We are not just talking about intercourse – kissing, cuddling, holding hands or lying in bed together can be great sexual intimacy.

Aged-care facilities have a duty of care to ensure no abuse takes place, but just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean that they can’t consent. Carers have to remember that their residents are adults, not children, and having dementia doesn’t stop them from making decisions. No one has the right to deny them the fundamental right of sexual expression.

Service providers need better education to understand that the most important challenge is to determine the capacity of an older person to consent to sexual activity, and to be able to put aside their beliefs and values. They also have to realise that they can’t discriminate against older lesbian and gay people, who often feel they have to get back into the closet.

More practical matters need to be addressed, too, since privacy can be a problem, with staff often just walking in on their residents without knocking at the door. The beds at nursing homes aren’t particularly big either.

Over the past few years several surveys have been conducted to find out more about the sex lives of older Australians, and the good news is that sexual activity is enjoyed into advanced age. Ageing doesn’t end sex; it simply changes it. Sometimes a couple won’t have penis-vagina intercourse any more, but there are many other satisfying ways to be sexual.

To the oldies out there, it is important to keep your sex life alive by making time for it. Try different approaches that allow you to get excited. Use hands, mouth and sex toys to make love and enjoy an orgasm. Try to have sex in the morning when you are not tired and men’s testosterone levels are higher. Having sex releases several hormones in the body, which increases intimacy and bonding, and works against loneliness and depression. And when you are on your own, solo sex is a great option too.