Recent trends in sexual activity among seniors indicate that the taboo topic of seniors and sex can no longer be ignored. Not only can sexuality assist in combatting loneliness and depression as we age, but statistics show that most seniors are more sexually active than their families, care communities and home care providers realize.
So what are seniors saying—or not saying—about sex?
They Have It
A study by the New England Journal of Medicine reports that over 25 percent of seniors aged 75-85 are sexually active. The number rises above 50 percent for seniors ages 65-74. Whether or not senior sexual activity is being candidly discussed within families and health care settings, the statistics are clear: many seniors are having sex.
Their Children Aren’t Asking About It
Sex and dating are, quite literally, the last thing adult children want to talk about with their senior parents, according to results from a survey commissioned Home Instead Senior Care® and summarized on Canada.com. Only a third of adult children reported that they are even the least bit comfortable with the topic. The percentage of seniors who are sexually active and the hesitation of most families to discuss this activity suggest a dangerous communication barrier when it comes to seniors and sex.
They May Not Be Aware Of The Risks
Perhaps most staggering is this statistic cited by CBS News: Sexually transmitted diseases have more than doubled over the past decade in the 50-90 demographic. The assumption that all seniors are aware of the commonly known risks associated with sexual activity is false. Senior baby boomers originally became sexually active at a time when facts about STDs and safe sex were not as readily available as they are today. Add this to existing challenges, such as lack of privacy in community living, and the question of seniors and sex becomes quite complex.
What Does This Mean For Senior Caregivers?
The realities of seniors and sex suggest that professionals in the elder care community need to begin an open and frank discussion with seniors and their families about seniors’ needs for physical connection and emotional intimacy. This is no easy task, but there are helpful resources available. One resource you may encourage seniors and their families to use is the 40/70 Guide. This guide provides discussion tips and strategies to start those difficult conversations. The 40/70 Rule® refers to the respective ages of adult children and their senior parents when they should begin to talk about various aging topics.
It’s also important to acknowledge the role that living situations play in protecting a senior’s privacy and independence. Aging in place resources may be key in retaining an environment where both physical and emotional needs of a senior can be met. Visit HomeInstead.com to learn more about how home care services can help seniors retain their independence.