Sexually Active Seniors
Advice for Getting Over Common Myths About Seniors and Relationships...And Tips for Learning to Accept Seniors Having Sex
Dear April Masini,
My grandmother is in a nursing home, and she has a boyfriend there (which I’ve always thought was cute), but now I think she’s having sex with him. Is this normal? Do you have any advice on what I should do?"
Grandma’s Hot To Trot
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Hot To Trot,
With Tina Turner over 60, and Sophia Loren pushing 70 -- Sean Connery approaching mid 70s and Paul Newman pushing 80 -- it’s cool, hip, and downright sexy to be a senior these days. In fact, a recent study of 1,300 men and women over the age of 60 by the National Council on the Aging found that 61 percent of the men and 37 percent of the women were sexually active. Some 61 percent of the men and 62 percent of the women said that sex was as satisfying as or more satisfying than it was when they were in their 40s. Nope, grandparents just aren’t what they used to be -- they’re even better!
Thanks to technology and medication, seniors are living longer, and most want to live richer lives that include romance and sex. Viagra, alone, has completely changed the landscape of sex and senior men. Older women are jockeying for position in yoga and exercise classes to stay fit and feel good. It doesn't appear that sexuality is dwindling in retirement …it’s on the up-swing!
Remember, age is not an obstacle to love or affection and everyone wants both and thrives with both. Even seniors. Sex drives do change as people age and certain medications can dull or kick up senior libidos, so there is no right or wrong amount of dating, sex or affection. In fact, many seniors may appear to be having sex, but they're just being affectionate. Everyone thrives with positive contact, and a sexual relationship between seniors can be very healthy and rewarding. But it can be difficult for families to accept the fact that grandma or grandpa is having sex with a girlfriend or boyfriend.
Society does seem to tacitly frown on senior sex - especially out of marriage. But many women outlive their husbands, and find themselves in retirement homes or living alone. Like any other single, they like company and affection. It is natural that if your grandma is in contact with other single men, she may strike up a relationship, and if she or he has sexual feelings, they will be expressed in the course of the relationship the way other adults express their sexuality.
The truth is, aside from the physical problems like broken bones that do result during the act, there is a lot of good -- physically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially for sexually active seniors in committed and loving relationships.
Getting Over Senior Sex Taboos
Our society doesn’t celebrate romance and sex among seniors. In fact our books and movies rarely depict grandma and grandpa having an exciting romantic and sexual relationship. In fact, there are still many people who are uncomfortable seeing sex as anything but a means towards making babies. Those people and many others are uncomfortable thinking about or knowing that seniors they know have sex. But as our lives are sustained by technology and medication, seniors live longer, and many want to live richer lives that include romance and sex. Viagra, alone, has completely changed the landscape of sex and senior men. Older women are jockeying for position in yoga and exercise classes to stay fit and feel good. It doesn't appear that sexuality is dwindling.
Caregiver Discomfort with Senior Sex
When seniors live in retirement or nursing homes -- or other types of living situations that require their chronic care -- it is difficult for caregivers to know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to seniors' romantic and sexual relationships. The caregivers are very often uncomfortable talking to the seniors' families about the sex. And sometimes when they do broach the subject, the families are the ones who are uncomfortable discussing the possibilities. Often caregivers, staff and family members treat seniors with sexual urges the same way they do young children – by discouraging sexuality because they are uncomfortable seeing it or even knowing it exists. The caregivers often err on the side of caution by discouraging intimate and sexual senior relationships.
The Problem of Forgetting:
Sadly, it is easy for seniors on strong medication or with organic memory loss to forget that they've said yes to a date or a sex act and suddenly, there can be an awkward (at best) situation at hand. If your grandma is having a sexual relationship with her boyfriend, it would be a good idea to have some supervision for this reason alone – so that she can remember that she invited her boyfriend to stay the night rather than waking up the next morning and wondering how he got there because her Alzheimer’s – or some other memory affectation – made her forget. If a caregiver or family member is nearby, they can remind her that she had a planned and consensual “sleepover date.”
Three Tips for Encouraging Safe Senior Romantic Relationships:
- Deal with it. When you are uncomfortable seeing your senior family member in a romantic and sexual relationship, think about how you would a seventeen-year-old or a twenty year old. Recognize that while their independent sexual and romantic relationships may be difficult for you and your caregivers to see, it is important to their individuation.
- Facilitate senior relationships with care. If your mother or father in a nursing home seems to like someone, invite that someone to your home, along with your family member for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Sunday dinners. Allow opportunities for the relationship between the seniors to flourish. Remember that they are not always physically able to remember phone numbers to call their friends on their own, and often they are not physically able to walk or drive on a date or just out for coffee. Help them.
- Supervise when necessary. If your senior relative is in a sexual relationship, you will have to open your mind to new horizons. Allow your senior family-member and his or her friend to have sexual time and privacy, but stay near by in case someone falls or needs help. You will have to adjust your modesty meter and keep the big picture in mind. Consider "sleep over dates" with both sets of caregivers on hand or family members sleeping on the couch in the living room in case someone falls, etc.
Overall, remember respect for humanity. Just because someone is old does not mean that they have lost their ability to express themselves sexually, or romantically. The last stages of life do not have to be love-less.
Seniors can even take advantage of some of the date ideas in my book, Romantic Date Ideas.