Getting older sucks. Our health deteriorates. Aches and pains settle into our wrinkling bodies, reminding us of joints and bones we never knew existed before. Not to mention all the crap we’re predestined to go through just because of our genetics—heart disease; diabetes; stroke. Soon, even our sexy parts don’t work right. And if the crippling aging process wasn’t enough to mock us in our older years, society castrates us.
Small wonder people all over America are flocking to get nipped and tucked and pulled and pinched. (15.1 million people got plastic surgery in 2013, in case you were curious.)
It is no secret we live in a world obsessed with youth and beauty. Or that we live in a throw away culture where even our elderly are tossed out like last season’s iPhone. But it is laughable to think there is an expiration date on human sexuality.
According to a report out of the University of Manchester last month, 54% of men and 31% of women ages 70 and older reported having active sex lives. Sex lives, it may surprise some people to know, that are as varied and fluid as all human sexuality. It would seem our need for physical human contact is the only thing that doesn’t wilt with age.
That’s not to say problems don’t arise. Depression, physical and mental incapacitation, and the death of a partner are all common side-effects of aging. Nonetheless, we live in a scientific age where the elderly are living…and fucking longer. Where even if our dicks stop working and our libidos plummet there are avenues we can take to kick start them right back up again.
Still, there is this persisting stigma about older sex. Even in nursing homes where privacy may be lacking, sex is viewed with a myriad of emotions. According to Belinda Kessel in Age and Ageing:
“Reactions were quite hostile toward eroticism, with expressions of anger and disgust. There was always a worry of sexual abuse—expecially if one of the couple concerned was frail. Relatives’ views were variable. In cases where the woman had made the sexual advances, her relatives were invariably upset and angry and demanded she be protected by staff.”
To be fair, the staff in these places are individuals with their own attitudes and beliefs about human sexuality. Yet, this points to a fundamental problem with geriatric care. Seniors are humping and we don’t want to talk about it. And for some, sex has changed A LOT since the days of their youth, which may explain why STIs are on the rise among our beloved Baby Boomers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
“Approximately one-third of all adults with HIV today are over the age of 50 and that number is expected to increase to one half by 2015.”
And that’s just HIV—not HPV or syphilis or chlamydia or any number of things seniors might be giving each other along with their O—all because they don’t know any better and health care professionals are too embarrassed or ill informed to discuss it with them.
There is no doubt sex education is lacking in this country. It would seem we need only look at our seniors to see the product of this. Shame and guilt and misinformation keep people from opening their mouths, while medical professionals don’t necessarily promote a sex-positive atmosphere for their patients. The mentally ill, the disabled, the elderly…these are all sexually ostracized groups in which little sexual health information is available. Seems to me the whole system needs a good going over.
Sexuality seems to be something we are stuck with for the rest of our lives. Sex is healthy. It feels good. It helps keeps us sane. Sad we live in a culture that wants to strip seniors of their right to be sexual—in whatever form that might take.
I, for one, take comfort from our sexual seniors. They give me hope for the future. I can almost see it now—sitting in the nursing home alongside my husband, feeling a little randy. I’ll be damned if some young whippersnapper tries to make me stop. Let them watch! When I’m 80 I doubt I’ll give much of a damn either way, and some young buck might learn a few new moves from this old timer.
Until next time…