Sexuality and the Elderly: A Research Guide

By Bonnie L. Walker | Go to book overview

9
Sexual Behavior of the Elderly

Researchers investigating sexual behaviors among the elderly offer evidence that sexual behaviors vary among this population in the same way they vary among younger groups. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that while sexual expression may change as people age, the need for such expression, and the acting out of those needs continues among older people as long as the health of the partners permits. The frequency of sexual activity appears to decline with aging for a variety of reasons but primarily because of (for women) a lack of a partner and (for men) poor health. Some writers point out environment restraints on sexual expression, especially lack of privacy.

Recent investigations suggest changing expectations of older people regarding their right to express their sexuality including those older people in long-term care facilities. Research also suggests that definitions of "appropriate" sexual expression of families of the elderly and staff of long-term care facilities may not match those of the elderly themselves. In general staff of long-term care facilities find expression of sexuality among their residents to be unacceptable. Evidence also suggests an increase in sexual and romantic relationships among elderly residents of long-term care facilities. Researchers from Kinsey to the present time have expressed surprise by the extent to which older people continue to engage in sexual activity.

Sexual interest has been investigated by many researchers. While it also appears to decline with aging, elderly people in general maintain an interest in sex throughout their lives.

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