Attitudes of the Elderly Toward Sexuality
Attitudes toward elderly sexuality by the elderly have been investigated in several settings using questionnaires and face-toface interviews. Settings for studies have been nursing homes, congregate housing units, retirement homes, and senior centers. Populations studied have been residents, elderly men whose wives have Alzheimer's, and widows. Among the many aspects of sexuality investigated were types of sexual expression and sexual interest, sexual identity, and sexual fantasies. Researchers have investigated feelings about physical attractiveness, problems with partners with Alzheimer's disease, reluctance to express sexual concerns, importance of age-related changes, feelings about loss of sexual activity due to being widowed, and ideas about homosexuality and masturbation. Variables in these studies have included education level, age, marital status, parenthood, religiosity, income, heterosexual involvement, mental condition, gender, race, urban versus rural, geographic region, health disability, and cultural influences.
One study ( Kaas, 1978) compared the attitudes of residents with staff at a nursing facility. Studies by Smith and Schmall ( 1983), Steinke ( 1994), and Story ( 1989) have investigated the knowledge of elderly people about sexuality. Studies indicate that change in knowledge can be achieved through education but attitude is not necessarily related to changes in knowledge. In general, researchers have concluded that the elderly could benefit from education regarding their sexuality.