Sex is an issue that as a culture, we generally view as a domain of the young and perky — but as sales of Viagra and Levitra in recent years prove, interest in getting it on does not necessarily wane entirely as age increases.
But as far as basic human rights go, sex is usually pretty low down on the list. In prison and the army, you tend to get three hots and a cot, but as far as comforts of the more tender variety go, you’re SOL — in fact, in the former, you’re generally luckiest if you’re not getting any.
However, lifespans are lengthening and the chances any one of us will be lucky enough to get old enough to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility are increasing as well — and what happens to adults sexually when they reach that age?
In recent years, we’ve read and heard of the number of STI diagnoses skyrocketing in older populations, an issue even referred to on an episode of the sitcom Scrubs. But it is true that older adults still want a sexually vibrant life, and this desire doesn’t even ebb when dementia sits in, creating a confusing situation when it comes to consent, autonomy, privacy and elder quality of life.
A new article published in Journal of Medical Ethics explores the issue, positing that sexuality is a “normal and healthy” part of aging — and moreover, that old people should be free to explore their sex options even when they’ve been placed in assisting living facilities.
Calling a lack of sexual access a lapse in care, the authors write:
“Since it has been well established that sexuality and intimacy continue to be important in later life and are central to an individual’s health and wellbeing, the lack of attention paid by aged care facilities to residents’ sexual needs is concerning.”
Despite “complex moral and ethical issues” concerning sex and the aged, the article opines:
“Particularly when a resident has dementia, staff apprehensions about the abrogation of their duty of care and concerns about unlawful activity, anxiety about potential risks to the resident, and fear of negative repercussions from a resident’s family make many facility managers wary of physically intimate activity among residents.”
Authors predict that as the world’s population ages, the issue of sex in elder care facilities will become ever pressing, and should be addressed.