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Health Topics - Intimacy and Sexuality

The following is an exerpt 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."

Living, Loving and Ageing - sexual and personal relationships in later life

Another book available at Age Concern is "Living, Loving and Ageing - sexual and personal relationships in later life". You can borrow a copy by contacting Age Concern New Zealand.

HIV/AIDS and Older People

"HIV/AIDS is a global problem of catastrophic proportions. The challenge is enormous, but we are not powerless to face it. That is why I have made it my personal priority to form a global alliance commensurate with the challenge." - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan

HIV/AIDS has for many years been considered a disease affecting younger people. At the Second Word Assembly on Ageing HIV/AIDS and it's effect on older people was highlighted as a health issue of major importance. To read the report in full go to the Global Ageing website.


Survey on Sexual Behaviour Among Older Adults

The University of Chicago has published a national survey that charts sexual behaviour among older adults. It found that most people aged between 57 to 85 think of sexuality as an important part of life and that the frequency of sexual activity, for those who are active, declines only slightly from the 50s to the early 70s.

Data from the University of Chicago's National Social Life, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP), presented in the August 23, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that many men and women remain sexually active well into their 70s and 80s. A summary of the survey can be found on the University of Chicago site, as well as a PDF version of the article.


Other Websites of Interest

  • Medical Journal of Australia has an excellent article on Older Women's Sexuality and also gives references for further information.
  • The NZ Family Planning Association has useful information on this topic. You can order their flyer "Life-long sexuality" free from their website, and download other free booklets.
  • 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.
  • The St Petersburg Times Online Seniority have an article on the "The Quality of Closeness" which looks at intimacy, ageing and relationships, and includes comments from a number of older people and health professionals.
  • Eldernet has very good information on sexuality within a Residential Care environment
  • AgeUk is a good source of information for older lesbians, gay men, transgender, and bisexuals.



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