For Rewire (then RH Reality Check)
People are still having sex well into their golden years. According to public health data compiled by Bloomberg News, 67 percent of men between the ages of 65 and 74, and 39.5 percent of women in the same age group, have had partner sex within the last 12 months. But at institutions and in organizations that ostensibly cater to seniors’ needs, the matter of older adults’ sexuality is often ignored altogether.
“It’s not like the gift shops in these long-term care facilities are providing condoms,” Melanie Davis, co-president and a founding member of Widener University’s Sexuality and Aging Consortium, told Rewire. The Consortium, which was formed in 2010, works with nursing home administrators around the country on educating their staff about addressing behavioral issues or day-to-day questions about privacy and sex. Though condoms are occasionally distributed at sex education classes at these facilities, Davis says, few even have policies addressing sexual expression, residents’ privacy, or sexual safety and consent, let alone ready accessibility to STI-prevention methods.
Robin Dessel, sexual rights educator at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, New York, said the lack of resources for sexually active seniors is reflective of narrow public attitudes. “Society at large has not come to terms with older adult sexuality,” she said. The Hebrew Home was the first adult care facility in the country to draft a policy regarding residents’ sexual expression; it’s also created a set of guidelines to help care providers determine whether a person with dementia can consent to sex.
The consequences of failing to address senior sexuality are complicated: While sexually transmitted infection rates among seniors actually haven’t increased dramatically, seniors may not be getting adequate details about prevention or treatment. In addition, one in three seniors dies due to Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and the rate of Alzheimer’s diagnosis is projected to climb over the next few decades. Memory loss can change a patient’s sexual expression and complicate matters of consent. And, as Dessel argues, the rights to privacy, sexual expression, and intimate contact are fundamental human rights—ones that seniors can be losing out on due to a lack of good information and clear policies.
Read the rest of the story at Rewire.