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‘We've had our sex life way back’: older care home residents, sexuality and intimacy

  • PAUL SIMPSON (a1), CHRISTINE BROWN WILSON (a2), LAURA J. E. BROWN (a3), TOMMY DICKINSON (a4) and MARIA HORNE (a5)...

Abstract

Older care home residents are excluded from the sexual imaginary. Based on a consultative study involving interviews with three residents, three female spouses of residents and two focus groups of care home staff (N = 16), making an overall sample of 22 study participants, we address the neglected subject of older residents' sexuality and intimacy needs. Using thematic analysis, we highlight how residents’ and spouses’ accounts of sexuality and intimacy can reflect an ageist erotophobia occurring within conditions of panoptical control that help construct residents as post-sexual. However, not all accounts contributed to making older residents’ sexuality appear invisible or pathological. Some stories indicated recuperation of identities and the normalisation of relationships with radically changed individuals, e.g. because of a dementia. We also examine care home staff accounts of the discursive obstacles that frustrate meeting residents’ needs connected with sexuality and intimacy. Simultaneously, we explore staffs’ creative responses to dilemmas which indicate approaches to sexuality driven more by observed needs than erotophobic anxiety and governance, as well as panoptical surveillance.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Paul Simpson, Department of Applied Health and Social Care, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, L39 4QP, UK E-mail: simpsonp@edgehill.ac.uk

References

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