Israeli and US researchers: Many elderly unwilling to ‘retire’ from sexuality

Elderly couple (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Elderly couple (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Many senior citizens are finding “creative ways” of continuing to enjoy sexual relations despite their age and chronic medical conditions, according to a new study by Israeli and American researchers who have published their findings in the journal Leisure Sciences.
Older people are increasingly unwilling to forgo sex, concluded Prof. Galit Nimrod of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s communications department and Interdisciplinary Center for Research into Old Age and Prof. Lisa Berdichevsky, an expert in leisure, sport and tourism at the University of Illinois.
Many elderly people believe that sexual activity is vital for their well being, happiness and quality of life, with some of these energetic seniors finding their “golden years” are the optimal time to discover new aspects of their sexuality, Berdichevsky and Nimrod said.
Their study was based on a yearlong analysis of 14 leading online communities of older persons, including English speakers from the US, Canada, England and Australia.
While a small percentage were “satisfied” with their “retirement” from sex, others stressed in their conversations that they were still able and interested in continuing, with many conceding that the realization they were closer to the end of their lives than the beginning freed them of the stereotypes and limits on their behavior when they were younger.
Some claimed that their libido was stronger as a senior citizen than when they were young and that having leisure time after years of working gave them the opportunity for more active sex lives and a commitment to living.
While their physical condition limited them socially, psychologically and biologically, according to Berdichevsky, many participants said they were able to find “cognitive and behavioral strategies” to overcome the limitations.
Some participants indicated that because of stereotypes about sex in old age, their children disapproved of their behavior, and they also complained in the online forums that health-system workers ignored their complaints about sexual problems.
Popular subjects covered included the desire to continue to enjoy sex after the death of their spouses and the risks of dating and having new relationships, even when they were living in geriatric facilities.
The researchers concluded that there was a need for “sex education” for the elderly and the need to educate doctors, nurses and personnel old-age facilities to abandon their “old-fashioned ideas” about sexuality in old age, honor the privacy of seniors and be sensitive to their concerns.