The Psychological Impact of Aging on Sexuality and Relationships Clara Christ Brooks
The study of human sexuality in the aging population has been understudied by researchers. The number of elderly persons in the United States doubled from 17 million in 1960 to 35 million in 2000, and is projected to reach 53.7 million by 2020 (Delamater & Sill, 2005). This research employs a qualitative grounded approach which examines recent research on aging and sexuality to better understand how it affects the elderly and their sexual functioning. By implementing evidence-based practices in assessment and intervention plans, mental health practitioners will be able to assist our aging individuals with sexual intimacy and activities which are important quality-of-life issues. Quality of life and sexuality are key factors to be considered in the management of the aging individual (Genazzani, Gambaccianni & Simoncini, 2007). Symptoms and diseases associated with aging have a variable impact. Findings from this study will assist mental health professionals in identifying several influences of sexual desires and functioning of older individuals. This would be an important contribution to the existing literature because mental health professionals will be able to understand the psychological impact of aging on sexuality and relationships. This social change research project will help our aging individuals lead healthier, more productive lives.
Keywords:aging, androgens, attitudes, culture, hormones, illness, medications, menopause, sexuality, society Introduction The physical aging process can not be minimized because the interaction of time and aging is incredibly powerful, causing great alterations in people and their lives. This is very true in emotional and sexual relationships. As our bodies age, our mind and personality age and change too. According to Kingsberg (2000) the concept of sexual desire is a term that reflects the interaction of three components: drive, expectations/beliefs/values, and motivation. Drive is the result of neuroendocrine mechanisms and is experienced as spontaneous, endogenous sexual interest. Drive is manifested by genital tingling, sexual thoughts or fantasies, increased erotic interest in others, and seeking out sexual activity. Drive is known to decline in both women and men with age. Cognitive component reflects a person’s expectations, beliefs, and values that affect interest toward or away from behaving sexually (Kingsberg). The psychological motivation is the emotional or interpersonal component and is characterized by the willingness of a person to behave sexually with a given partner (Kingsberg). Given the psychological and physical factors that impact sexual functioning with aging, older couples are at greater risk to become non-sexual. Mental health professionals will need to understand how hormone levels, specific illnesses, various medications, and health topics are related to sexual functioning because our aging population is living longer and growing in numbers. Background
There has been relatively little research on sexuality in later life, particularly among persons over 60 years of age (DeLamater & Sill, 2005). Cognitive flexibility and adjusting to the changes that come with age instead of fighting against it permits the likelihood of continued emotional and sexual satisfaction. Physical health problems associated with aging may impair sexual interest and responsiveness of both men and women (Genazzani, Gambacciani, and Simoncini, 2007). Doctors are developing increasing and effective and safe treatments for sexual problems in our elderly (Kingsberg, 2000). Statement of the issue
DeLamater and Sill’s (2005) research suggests that...