I know, talking about grandma and grandpa having sex makes you want to say….eeeewwww, but face it, it is not uncommon for older Americans to engage in sex. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study about the percentages of older Americans who regularly have sex and 53% of age 65 – 74, and 26% of age 75 – 85 say they still have sex. However, when it comes to discussing sex in long term care facilities, it is still a taboo subject.
Did you also know that STD’s among older Americans are on the rise? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published studies which show this to be the case. And the main reasons for this rise are due to longevity and remaining sexually active, the fact that retirement communities and ALF’s are a bit like college campuses (if you are a man with your eye sight and you can walk – you are on your way to a good time!), and the fact that many of these older Americans did not grow up in the “safe sex” era and do not think it is necessary to use condoms because, “I’m not gonna get pregnant!”
As you age and become an adult, you think that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with whomever you want. However, with the older population, especially those in ALF’s and residential care facilities that treat dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, this is not the case. And there is no current legislation to assist residents in asserting their rights to sexual activity or have a physically intimate relationship. Unfortunately, part of the problem is that facilities look at their patients as if they are children who need to be guarded, and not as mature adults who deserve to have private time and companionship.
I realize that there are safety issues when it comes to the elderly, especially with dementia patients, but if you are going to provide an “age in place” living environment, providers should think about how they are going to accommodate their residents and address family’s concerns. After all, just because someone has lost their mental abilities to remember their family and loved ones, don’t they still have a desire for intimacy and to be with someone?
These issues need to be addressed because according to the Administration on Aging, the older population of age 65 or older will be about 72.1 million by 2030 which is twice the number in 2000!