Intimacy Needs Never Gets Old!
From birth to death, the need for intimate connection never wanes. Adults are having sex into their 80s, 90s and beyond and they report, like fine wine, sex gets better with time – more satisfying, in fact, than it was in their 40s. The vast majority of seniors report sex is an integral and important part of their romantic relationships. Just like any other adult, seniors’ sexual involvement is just one of many ways intimacy needs are fulfilled and more great news: a satisfying sex life correlates to better health outcomes.
Get Rid of the “Ick” Factor
Record numbers of seniors are looking for love! Increasing life expectancy and other factors, like being single by choice, divorce, death of a partner, newly embraced sexual orientation, are driving today’s seniors into massive dating pools looking to fulfill the very normal, lifelong need for intimate connection. While this phenomenon is creating beautiful opportunities to connect, the kneejerk “ewwww” response (aka, “ick factor”) to seniors having sex, rooted in ageism, is pushing essential conversations underground about how to navigate this often-emotional terrain. Unafraid of pregnancy, seniors are not practicing safe sex, leading to staggering numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STI) among this population, including HIV, chlamydia, and syphilis. Doctors stop asking patients over 50-years-old about their sex life and do not screen for STIs, even when symptoms are present – opting instead to treat for urinary tract infections, overactive bladder, etc. Add to the mix medications to treat erectile dysfunction for men and hormonal changes for women, which also enhance arousal – well, sex has never felt better!
Normalize the Conversation – for your sake!
Accept the reality that lifelong intimacy is perfectly normal – and even healthy! Then, get on the bandwagon and help in any number of ways. Connect seniors with the numerous, tastefully done, online resources teaching safe sex education. Host a course on how-to safely navigate online dating sites or how-to create a dating profile. Simply ask a senior who trusts you: how’s your sex life – and listen respectfully to the answer. Co-create a list of questions to ask the doctor to assist with any physical barriers to a satisfying sexual experience. (Tip: if a doctor says anything akin to: “what do you expect, you’re __years old”, get a new doctor.) Finally, and perhaps even most importantly: watch your language; if you are lucky enough to grow older, your expressions today about aging will either foster more enthusiasm about growing older, or you will have contributed to the very discrimination you, too, will experience as you grow older.