Does there come a day when you’re too old to do the deed?
As Australia’s ageing population increases, experts are urging older people to talk openly about sex and relationships.
Dr Catherine Barrett, founder of the OPAL (Older People and Sexuality) Institute, said despite the stereotype, many seniors continued to have a very active sex life.
“I truly hope that our age is never a factor [when it comes to sex] and that the decision is never taken away from us,” she said.
“I think anyone who believes older people shouldn’t have sex should ask themselves at what age would they hang up their own right to have sex?”
Dr Barrett said although some people could experience a decrease in libido or an increase in erectile dysfunction, seniors did not immediately stop being sexual at a certain age.
“As we grow older intimacy can often become more important,” Dr Barrett told 612 ABC Brisbane’s Kelly Higgins-Devine. “We don’t just wake up on our 65th birthday and think that we have to hand it all over.
“Many of us may not feel good about our own sexuality as we age and we may think that our ageing is a series of declines that include sexuality.”
Just take a breath and relax
Sex therapist Bettina Arndt said sex continued to be important for many people in their 70s and 80s.
“People who maintain a spark and interest in sex, [it] can give them a life-affirming force,” she said.
“It’s such a wonderful thing for older couples who are lucky enough to still enjoy that.”
Ms Arndt said body image was often an issue for older women, but she encouraged them to just take a breath and relax.
“It’s interesting how many more men are comfortable with their bodies than women,” she said.
“It can be hard for us as women to get used to the idea that men aren’t looking at our floppy bits.
“It’s good to remember a lot of men just enjoy seeing women’s bodies and touching them.”
Sex and aged care
Dr Barrett said sex in aged care homes was often forgotten about or regarded as a taboo topic.
She has created toolkits and programs to help train staff working in these homes to assist them with approaching the concept of seniors and sex.
“Many older people in aged care can’t always make independent decisions compared to someone living in the community — and it is a challenge,” she said.
“Many family members take over decision making, and they [seniors] allow that to happen as they think as an older person they don’t have rights.
“But we only have about 5 per cent of older people going into aged care, so there are many in the wider community that can do with the education too.”