Intimacy and sexuality

The following is an excerpt from Ageing is Living: A Guide to Positive Ageing, a small booklet (33 pages) prepared by Age Concern New Zealand, which covers a wealth of information, suggestions, ideas and thoughts on planning and living a positive older age:

"There are many levels to intimacy. We all have a need to touch and be touched, both physically and emotionally. As we age we do not feel differently than we did when we were younger, though our physical and emotional reactions may be less immediate.

Some couples find intimacy improves as the pressures of work and family let up. There can be a need to adapt to the effects of hormonal changes, illness, or medication, and advice from a health professional may help.

Sometimes an expectation of a decline in sexual activity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Negative feelings about our older bodies, or disapproval from family, culture, or religion can also have effects. There can also be fewer opportunities to express affection as family move away, when a partner dies, or when living in a residential care environment. Being aware of opportunities to experience intimacy in all its forms is important."

Attitudes about sexuality and ageing

This very interesting article from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, looks at myths about sexuality and ageing and factors that may affect sexual satisfaction as you get older. Click here to read

Sexuality and residential care

The need for love, affection, physical closeness and contact continues throughout life, as does the desire to look and feel good. These needs are all part of our sexuality which can remain important for older people living in aged care facilities. Sexuality is a part of being human. We all express our sexuality in our own way. The importance of sexuality and how we express it can change over our lives. It can be very difficult to talk about sexuality as it is often something we are used to keeping private, or only talking about with people we trust. Health professionals and aged care staff can also feel uncomfortable talking about sexuality. Sexuality can still be important to people when they are living in an aged care facility even though they may: be old and in need of care; disabled; have health problems; or have dementia. Sexuality can be an awkward topic and it can be difficult to openly talk about it.Sexuality and people in residential aged care facilities: a guide for partners and families as been written to help family members, or partners of a person who lives in residential aged care understand about sexuality, what it means and how and why it might still be important to them. Click here to view.

Another interesting article is available on INsite Magazines - Dementia, intimacy and sexuality in residential aged care

Actions to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex elders

The Australian Government has published the Aged Care Diversity Framework and a series of action plans to help the aged care sector to better cater for the diverse characteristics and life experiences of older Australians. The Framework and action plans were developed following extensive community consultations.This document captures the voice of LGBTI peoples expressed through those consultations. It is intended both to help LGBTI peoples express their needs when speaking with aged care providers and as a resource to support people working in aged care to understand the perspectives of LGBTI peoples
There is - A guide for consumers and A guide for aged care providers

Websites of interest

  • The NZ Family Planning Association has useful information on this topic. You can order their flyer "Life-long sexuality" from their website or view pdf here.
  • SIECUS - The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) is a national, nonprofit organization which affirms that sexuality is a natural and healthy part of living. Incorporated in 1964, SIECUS develops, collects, and disseminates information, promotes comprehensive education about sexuality, and advocates the right of individuals to make responsible sexual choices.
  • AgeUk is a good source of information for older lesbians, gay men, transgender, and bisexuals.

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