By Joanne Alba, Planned Parenthood
Americans have a hard time talking openly and honestly about the topic of sex. Discussing sexual intimacy among older adults is harder (and rarer) still. This silence allows misconceptions and myths to flourish – including the widespread assumption that older adults lose interest in sex and intimacy and are, or should be, asexual.
This silence impacts our ability to have important discussions with health care providers. Data show that older adults are being treated for a greater number of sexually transmitted infections than in the past. Between 2007-2011, chlamydia infections among Americans aged 65 and older increased by 31%; syphilis by 52%. How do we acknowledge and normalize sex in later years?
We have a profound need to help society learn about sexuality and aging. According to the National Institute on Aging, “Many people want and need to be close to others as they grow older. This also includes the desire to continue an active, satisfying sex life.”
We hear plenty about how health issues can impact older adults’ sexuality – menopause, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, blood pressure. While this is real for many, research also shows sexual activity and intimacy is good for health in later years.
Research shows the range of these health benefits ( Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Gerontological Nursing and others). They are both physical and psychological: reducing stress, improving sleep, reducing pain, easing depression, and boosting the immune system. And while some age-related physical changes may be unavoidable, they don’t always have to interfere with being intimate or having that connection with another person.
Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon believes opening up our conversations about sexuality in mid- and later-life is important. If you’re interested in learning more about the many dimensions of sexuality and aging, The Heart Has No Wrinkles, a six-week class begins Wednesday, March 30th, 5:30-7:00pm at the Regional Health and Education Center, 3579 Franklin Blvd., Eugene, Oregon. This class is co-sponsored with Lane Community College’s Successful Aging Institute. Class registration: $50.00. For more information, or to register contact email@example.com or 541-344-1611 x1014.
And for more information on sexuality and aging, go to http://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/
[Istock photos courtesy of Planned Parenthood]