Aging and Human Sexuality
A Review of the Literature
RSWR 3345. AN02
Research Writing Methods
May 8, 2010
Assessment of aging and human sexuality has been the focus of substantial scientific effort. Less research has focused on the development of instruments for the measurement of sexual functioning in aging and human sexuality. As we age, changes in our bodies may affect our sex lives. This can lead to problems such as less enjoyment during sex or difficulty becoming sexually aroused. In women, hormonal changes after menopause or a hysterectomy can cause the vagina to become shorter, narrower, and less lubricated. These vaginal changes can make sex somewhat uncomfortable and less pleasurable. In addition, the psychological effects of aging may make sex less enjoyable for some women. In men, aging is associated with an increased risk of becoming impotent, or being unable to have or keep an erection. Some men find that when they get older, erections can be less firm or smaller than they used to be, and that they produce less ejaculate during an orgasm or lose an erection faster after orgasm. We don't discuss sexuality enough when considering the lives of older adults. It's easy to assume that aging brings dramatic changes and that sexuality is not a topic that concerns older adults to any great degree. Sometimes, however, events bring about a dramatic shift in awareness and understanding. The highly-publicized events following the release of the medication Viagra (sildenafil) provided a vivid example of such an event. Suddenly the country was swept with evidence that older adults are vitally concerned with sexuality. The evidence included the involvement of a former candidate for United States President, Bob Dole, publicly extolling the medication and what it had done for him, and also included dramatic statistics on the immediate response in terms of numbers of prescriptions written for Viagra. More recently, in 2006, the film Away From Her, brought issues of sexuality in couples dealing with dementia into sympathetic attention, with Julie Christie starring as an older woman with Alzheimer’s disease whose sexuality remains vibrant. While we still see many casual advertisements and media stories equating sexuality only with the young, there has been a paradigm shift in my lifetime toward a greater understanding that sexuality is an important part of life, throughout one’s lifetime. "You just never think the same about your grandparents after you have an 80 year old woman telling you how much she enjoys oral sex." However, it is not easy for health professionals in training to find information to learn more about aging and sexuality, once they have realized how important this topic is. It is my hope that it will serve to further openness and sensitivity in health care professionals, as they try to attend to a vitally important topic that does not lose its power with age. Keywords: Adult, Aging, Health, Sexuality,
This paper reviews recent literature around sexuality, health care and older adults. The construction of sexuality, importance of sexuality to older adults, sexual diversity in old age, and sexuality and health are discussed. Also discussed are the myths and stereotypes associated with this topic, and the medical, social, healthcare, and institutional barriers to sexuality and sexual health in later life. Addis, I. B, Van Den Eeden, S. K., Wassel-Fyr, C. L., et al. (2006). Obstetrics & Gynecology, 107, 755-764. Sexual activity and function in middle-aged and older women
This analysis estimates the prevalence and predictors of sexual activity and function in a diverse group of women aged 40–69 years. Women completed self-report questionnaires on sexual activity, comorbidities, and...