Older Adults and Sexuality: Implications for Counseling Ethnic and Sexual Minority Clients

By Muzacz, Arien K.; Akinsulure-Smith, Adeyinka M. | Journal of Mental Health Counseling, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Older Adults and Sexuality: Implications for Counseling Ethnic and Sexual Minority Clients


Muzacz, Arien K., Akinsulure-Smith, Adeyinka M., Journal of Mental Health Counseling


The literature on older adults and sexuality suggests that culturally sensitive counseling may give older adults an opportunity to express sexual concerns and promote healthier attitudes toward sexuality. Guidelines for counseling older adults who self-identify with ethnic minority groups or as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are given, with recommendations for training, practice, and research.

**********

As members of the baby boomer generation move beyond 65, much of what mental health professionals "know" about how to treat their concerns will become obsolete (American Psychological Association [APA], 2003; Langer, 2009). In this article the term "older adults" will be used, referring specifically to adults 65 and above (as Libman, 1989, defined "old age"). Older adults constitute the fastest-growing segment of the American population: There are currently 35 million older adults in the United States and it is expected that there will be over 53 million by 2020 and 70 million by 2030 (DeLamater & Sill, 2005; Sue & Sue, 2008). Langer (2009) suggested that the "greater sexual freedom" found among baby boomers encourages an emphasis on maintaining sexual activity throughout the lifespan (p. 756), and Jacoby (2005) asserted that this generation of older adults is revolutionizing sexuality by focusing on overcoming the physical limitations that accompany age.

Although "the majority of older adults are engaged in spousal or other intimate relationships and regard sexuality as an important part of life" (Langer, 2009, p. 772), negative stereotypes abound in American culture influencing how older adults are perceived by others and how they perceive themselves (Lindau et al., 2007; Watters& Boyd, 2009). A survey by the APA (2004) found that almost 70% of psychologists work with adults over 65, but only 30% received any graduate training about them and only 20% worked with older adults in a practicum or internship setting. Mental health counselors have a responsibility to acknowledge the stereotypes and validate older adults' experiences, but they must also be able to give them accurate information about normative development so that older adults can base their self-assessments on facts rather than myths or unrealistic expectations (Watters & Boyd, 2009).

The APA's (2003) Guidelines for Multicultural Practice consider age as much a vital part of an individual's identity as gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and religious/spiritual affiliation. Thus, it is important that early-career counselors have training in this area so that they are less likely to alienate or offend older clients. Besides fulfilling our responsibility to acknowledge all aspects of our clients' cultural identities, it is essential to consider older adults' needs and desires in all areas of functioning--physical, emotional, and social/interpersonal. Often overlooked in the literature pertaining to older adults is sexuality. The goal of this discussion is to examine how counseling can be used to promote healthy sexuality and sexual expression among older adults, especially members of ethnic or sexual minority groups.

WHY DISCUSS OLDER ADULT SEXUALITY?

Sexual thoughts, feelings, and activity are a vital part of the human experience (Langer, 2009; Watters & Boyd, 2009). DeLamater and Sill (2005) have described sexual desire as "an innate motivational force" (p. 139) akin to hunger or thirst. The desire to express oneself sexually does not decrease with age (Langer, 2009; Watters& Boyd, 2009). The spectrum of activity ranges from "sexual intercourse, oral sex, masturbation [and] sexual conversation" to "loving words, kissing and hugging" (Walker, Osgood, Richardson, & Ephross, 1998, p. 472). Even without sexual activity, sexuality in its psychological and social aspects can be a means of communicating intimacy, affection, and esteem (DeLamater & Sill, 2005; Pangman & Seguire, 2000; Watters & Boyd, 2009). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Older Adults and Sexuality: Implications for Counseling Ethnic and Sexual Minority Clients
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.