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Foreword

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 April 2023

Paul Simpson
Affiliation:
Edge Hill University, Ormskirk
Paul Reynolds
Affiliation:
The Open University, Milton Keynes
Trish Hafford-Letchfield
Affiliation:
University of Strathclyde
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Summary

That older people are seen as asexual or post-sexual and that this is true for many societies and cultures across the world is a widely known and uncontested proposition. A book that explores the how and why of the desexualisation in later life and puts forth an academic (theoretical and empirical) inquiry and policy analysis, as well as narrative and case study reporting of the complex processes that produce and maintain this desexualisation, is a welcome addition to an emerging field – the sexuality of older people.

Ageing conceptualised solely as a biological phenomenon and the associated decline-deficit-loss narrative leading to the pathologisation and medicalisation of the ageing body-mind is known; and so is the burgeoning of medical/health industries selling the idea of ‘restoring’ health, capacity and wellbeing or ‘postponing’ decline. The major contribution of this book is to show us the links between these dominant narratives of ageing and the (im)possibilities of sexual agency or rights that these produce. By dwelling on socio-cultural constructs of ageing, i.e. what are the socially and culturally sanctioned milestones/scripts for older people?, this book pushes its readers to think about the unviability of the idea of a sexually thriving older body – rendered unviable in a material sense of access to resources, opportunity, privacy and sexual autonomy. Also made unviable in a discursive sense is the absence of a sex-positive imagination and representation of sex and intimacy among older adults. Such issues pose major obstacles to the aspiration of sexual agency, desire and pleasure for older adults.

The editors of this book (and the series Sex and Intimacy in Later Life) and its contributors are mindful of avoiding homogenisation of older people or presenting a singular narrative of sexuality in later life. The book does not restrict its commentary to cisgender, heterosexual, marital sexuality of old age, but instead includes a focus on older LGBT older persons, older women, older people in care homes, older disabled people and those affected by a dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. Researchers, scholars, educators, social workers and policy makers who are engaged with the discourse of ageing and care about the needs, concerns and rights of older adults would benefit immensely by thinking about the many invisible and erased aspects of the ageing person that this book calls attention to.

Type
Chapter
Information
Desexualisation in Later Life
The Limits of Sex and Intimacy
, pp. xxv - xxvi
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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