The Golden Age of Sex

Erica Jong’s notes how speaking about sex and seniors seems to be a taboo in mainstream media. She says, “You won’t find many movies or TV shows about 70-year-olds falling in love, though they may be doing it in real life.”

So why are younger generations surprised that older adults want to have sex?

Not My Parents
My mother, a registered RN for 25 years, refuses to accept that her parents, my grandparents, still want to have a sexual relationship even though they are in assisted living.

When my grandfather asked the nurse in their facility to help him get a prescription for Viagra, she was surprised by his request. She called my mom, to ask if my grandparents were still "sexually active", my mom emphatically denied they were and said my grandfather was crazy and to just forget about his request.

I was appalled. Having just completed the book Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Catwhich discussed sex after dementia and how patients with dementia can change to become more sexually demanding, I sent her a copy of the book, hoping she would get the idea, from a geriatrician with expertise.

After she finished the book I asked her about it. She conveniently ignored (or 'blocked out' as she put it) the story about the couple and the change in sex life after dementia. She said she didn't want to think of her parents that way.

I encouraged her to allow my grandfather's request to fill the prescription. I tried to reason with her that even though my grandmother was always an innocent Golden Girls "Rose Nyland" type before dementia, perhaps she is now more of a "Blanche Deveraux". She had a laugh over it, but it wasn’t enough to sway her. My thought is that sex and seniors is a difficult topic when the seniors in question happen to be your own parents.

Grandma's Boyfriend
My husband's grandmother had an intimate relationship with a wheelchair-bound man at her assisted living home. When she found out the man was actually seeing many women in the facility at the same time, she was very upset by it. She withdrew from the relationship and hid from her neighbors for a couple months. The pain in learning her boyfriend had many girlfriends was compounded by the fact that she seemed to be the only one who didn't know it. His other girlfriends even teased her about it.

Although she wanted to break up with him because she wanted a monogamous relationship, she decided not to. She figured it was worth more to her to keep the relationship. Her boyfriend died last month after a relationship that lasted several years, and although she conducted his funeral, she never did tell his family about their intimate relationship. She did however confide to us that while she was glad to have known him, she won't be doing that again.

New Books
What is wonderful is to see books like Joan Price’s, “Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex” bringing to light the topic of ageless sexuality in light of the physical changes that occur with aging. In the book, she not only includes readers' stories, but also information from 45 sex experts, doctors and health professionals.

New Risks: HIV/AIDS
An additional consideration for seniors having sex is the increasing number of HIV and Aids cases occurring. These generations were not raised with all the safe sex education and marketing that the younger generations take for granted. A recent article says that by 2015 the majority of HIV/Aids patients will be 50 years of age and older. The new health focus will be to help seniors protect themselves from contracting the virus and from passing on the virus. It will be important to get seniors tested for HIV with quick, discreet home test kits to hopefully stop the spread of the disease, to provide better distribution of information to older adults about safer sex, and to better advertise senior prophylactics alongside products already aimed at active seniors, like Viagra.