By Tonia Boterf
Just because you are over age 50 doesn’t mean you stop being a sexual being. People don’t operate on an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch for the need of sex and intimate closeness due to age. In fact, the need for touches of friendship and caring, and intimate contact and companionship as we age is great as seniors tend to have fewer opportunities for it.
Why I’m up in arms is because of how many residential facilities and even hospitals have set up rules or blocks for seniors on having sex, intimate relations with someone, companionship and so forth.
Example: Assisted Living – many facilities will not allow someone to stay overnight if a senior had a boyfriend or one-night stand. The doors are usually locked in the evening until morning too. If the boyfriend were a resident, there would likely be no problem but if the boyfriend is not a resident, it all of a sudden becomes an issue. How much time can he spend visiting, eating or participate in activities with his girlfriend can become an issue too?
Second example: husband dying in the hospital and wife by his side holding hands from her chair. Her need is for closeness but the hospital will not allow her (no medical reason why she can’t) to get up in bed with her husband and just quietly hold him and sleep together as they had for decades.
Fortunately, relatives took matters into their own hands and locked the door and helped their Mom up onto the bed where she slept and held her husband. Many believe her ability to live well after his death was because of that closeness at the end.
Third example: nursing home not allowing residents to have sex together or with visiting spouses. No cuddling in bed, either! Even prisoners get conjugal visits but our seniors can’t?
Fourth example: if family is caring for their aging parent or elderly relative; most of the time, no thought has been considered for how the senior can continue to be a sexual being. It actually seems to be a thought most caregivers want not to consider but they need to.
As I said before, just because a person is a senior, the sexuality switch didn’t just get ‘turned off’. It has been proven that people who are in relationships or married, live longer.
So what is everyone doing to make sure the quality of life is good for seniors in the sexuality and intimacy department so they can live a happy and long life?
Also, why aren’t more residential facilities allowing couples to live together while receiving different levels of services? Is the issue of money, services and so forth so difficult that they can’t find a way to allow the basic physical right of seniors to have sex and intimacy not only made possible, but encouraged and supported?
Psychological studies clearly show that people need touch in order to be mentally healthy but also physically healthy. Denying Seniors their rights to be sexual beings, to have closeness with spouses/significant others/friends, just because they live in some type of facility is not OK and not in the best interest of the residents.
Many seniors are likely not to move to a residential option when they would like to or need to, because they may not be able to stay together or because the rules of the facility would deny them their rights to intimacy.
Residential options, hospitals and State licensing boards need to address this important issue. Family caregivers need to address this issue too.
We are sexual beings, even when well over age 50 but our society doesn’t seem to want to address that need and make it possible for seniors to have intimacy easily, even when we know that it promotes better mental and physical health and leads to living longer and having a better quality of life.
What are your thoughts?
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