Semester: FALL 2012
Sexuality in late adulthood
The sexuality of the adult originates in childhood. However, like thinking and other human capacities, sexuality is not fixed, it matures and develops. Freud's ideas teach us the value of intimate personal attachment and its key place in mature sexual fulfillment. His ideas also help us to understand that the desire for pleasure is an important motivating force in our lives. Changes in sexual behavior occur with age and while humans in late adulthood may be impaired by weakness, relationship needs such as closeness and sensuality remain. Aging produces changes in sexual performance. Men are more likely to experience these changes than women. For men, orgasms become less frequent and usually need more direct stimulation to produce an erection. One out of four men, ages 65 to 80, has severe problems getting or keeping erections, and this percentage increased with men over 80 years of age. Yet the use of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction increases the expectations of older adults to have sex. Despite medical complications and opinions that people in late adulthood should not be sexually active, many older adults continue to engage in sexual intercourse. The results of a recent interview study involving 3,000 adults 57 to 85 years of age have shown that health plays a role in the level of older adults' sexual activity. The percentage of sexually active older adults is higher for those that are in good health than those in poor health. Older women may be less sexually active due to outliving their partners or men's tendency to marry younger women. Older adults who engage in sexual activity, intimacy, and companionship tend to be more satisfied with life. A common stereotype suggests that people tend to lose interest in and ability to engage in sexual acts once they reach late adulthood. This stereotype is mainly reinforced through...