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Myth Vs Reality Aging and Sex

Myth: Older people do not want or need close physical relationships There is a belief that older people have no capacity for or interest in sexual activity.

The Reality: Many older people want – and are able to lead – an active, satisfying sex life.

“Historically, sexual decline was assumed to be an inevitable and universal consequence of growing older; thus, ageing individuals were expected to adjust to it gracefully and to appreciate the special moral benefits of postsexual maturity” Katz, S. and B. Marshall, New sex for old: Lifestyle, consumerism, and the ethics of aging well. Journal of Aging Studies, 2002.

The idea that older people have no interest in sexuality is based on beliefs about their inability to perform, their lack of interest in sex, or thinking that those who are interested are perverted.

Older people reject it, saying that media images are changing. Acknowledging that health problems and lack of a partner hinder some people, they point out that sex is more than a physical act and can be expressed in other loving ways. It can also be more fun without hang-ups and there are medications that can help.

Many older people agree that while needs change over time, a sexual relationship can be physically and psychologically beneficial. A study of older people with an average age of 60 indicated most wanted to maintain a sexual relationship that included touching and kissing. Other studies show that there is a continuing desire to be in an intimate relationship.

“... sexual behaviour is not only influenced by age and marital status but also by other relevant factors, such as changes in the nature of people’s relationships over time, lifelong sexual practices, the influence of medicine on sexual performance, and changing notions of how people have ‘sex’ with each other across the lifespan” Minichiello, V., D. Plummer, and D. Loxton, Knowledge and beliefs of older Australians about sexuality and health. Australasian Journal on Ageing, 2000.

The capacity for and interest in sexual activity at any age can be influenced by disease, medications, psychological, social and cultural conditions, and religious beliefs, but it does not necessarily abate with age. Many people retain sexual ability and interest, well into old age. The myth of the ‘sexy oldie’ can be as confining as the myth about the ‘asexual’ older person by pressuring people into using sexual enhancement drugs and reinforcing the youthful ideals of sex and beauty.

 “Less sexual activity tends to contribute to decreased interest and a diminished sexual response. It may also contribute to a decline in the overall sense of wellbeing” Nusbaum, M.R.H., P. Lenahan, and R. Sadovsky, Sexual health in aging men and women. Geriatrics, 2005.

Source: https://www.qld.gov.au/seniors/documents/retirement/ageing-myth-reality.pdf


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