Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 May 2010
Sexuality is an important part of health and quality of life and thus is an important area for health care providers to address. Although much has been written about sexuality in adolescence and adults, relatively little information regarding sexuality in older populations is available. With the aging of the baby boom generation, different attitudes and mores regarding sexuality are coming forward as a result of growing up in the “free love” generation. In time, discussion of sexuality with older adults is anticipated to be more direct, open, and often initiated by well-informed patients.
At this time a number of fallacies regarding sexuality later in life prevail. Many prefer to believe that sexuality in older adults simply does not exist. Brogran notes, “there is a general societal belief that old people are, or should be, asexual and a false assumption exists that physical attractiveness depends on youth and beauty.” Alternatively, sexuality in older adults is considered a laughing matter. Comical cards and ones on old age often give messages about physical weakness and failures in sexual performance. Sexuality in older adults is sometimes seen as something distasteful or disgusting with references to “dirty old men” and “lecherous old women.” Although often these fallacies of sexuality are held by youthful members of society, perhaps just as often they are believed by older adults themselves. It becomes apparent that the health care providers' involvement in promoting health and well-being of older adults through discussions of sexuality is often hindered by misinformation and misperceptions.