(This article is a special guest post by geriatrician Dr. Nicole Didyk, founder of the blog and YouTube channel The Wrinkle. Like me, Dr. Didyk has a particular interest in informing and empowering older adults and families. So I’ve been very glad to have her contributing to the site, and I appreciate her covering some topics that I haven’t yet had the time to address. Enjoy! — L. Kernisan)
Quick! Think about older adults and sex. What comes to mind? George Burns cracking wise about sex after 90 being like trying to shoot pool with a rope? A sweet old couple holding hands in their rocking chairs? Nothing?
The truth is that what pops into people’s minds, when it comes to older adults and sexuality, is often negative. For instance, it’s common for older adults to be thought of as:
- “Cute” in a chaste and childlike way,
- Predatory and/or “lecherous”, as in the “cougar” or the “dirty old man”, or
- Problematic (think sexual behavior when someone has dementia, or sex between nursing home residents).
This, of course, is largely due to pervasive ageism in society. Sexuality, sexual expression, and the urge for physical intimacy is actually an important part of every adult person’s life.
So it’s sad that it’s so common for it to be treated as “inappropriate” or otherwise discouraged in later life. But fortunately, we’re starting to see significant progress in combatting this aspect of ageism, too.
In my job as a consultant Geriatrician, I see older adults about a wide range of issues, including memory changes, falls, pain, depression, and medication adjustment. But what is often affected by all of those medical issues – yet rarely talked about — is sex.