Sex Among the Elderly

JULY 25, 1994 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 3

A study conducted by the Palo Alto Senior Center considered the sexual interests, desires and performance of the over-55 set. The results, released earlier this month, indicate that while 92% of men and women aged 56 to 85 said they would like to have sex once a week, only 55% reported that they met that goal. Participants of all ages tended to wish they could return to the sexual habits they enjoyed ten years ago.

Nonetheless, most participants reported “satisfactory” romantic encounters, often utilizing methods other than sexual intercourse to achieve that satisfaction. In fact, intercourse was not highly ranked among the survey participants, who listed oral sex, manual genital stimulation and kissing as alternatives.

The vast majority of men questioned in the study complained that achieving erection was more difficult than it had been ten years earlier, and that they were bothered by that fact. Women reported declining sexual activity resulting from lack of opportunity.

The study was conducted as part of a conference on senior sexuality. The resopndents were asked six months later about changes in their sexual activity; participants reported improved sex lives, even though the frequency of sexual activity remained the same. Participants indicated that conference attendance and information about senior sexuality had been helpful.

“Like everything else, the more you know the better off you are,” study director Dr. Walter Bortz said. “Sex practices among older people is generally a taboo subject, but we had an extraordinarily bright group of people for our survey.”

Magazine Review:

The Sandwich Generation

Problems of elder care, particularly when administered or orchestrated by the elder’s children are the focus of a new quarterly magazine. The Sandwich Generation is published by Carol Abaya Associates in New Jersey and includes articles on how to cope with caring for parents, practical tips on such care and helpful advice on maintaining the dignity and autonomy of elders as much as possible.

Publisher Abaya indicates that “one of the primary goals of The Sandwich Generation is to help families better handle elder care responsibilities and elders maintain control of their own lives.” To those ends, the current issue of the magazine (Summer, 1994) includes articles titled “Where Should Mom/Dad Live Now?”, “Anger at Aging: Don’t Deny It” and “Coping With Death: Crying is Healing”. In “Do I Want To? No!! Will I? Yes.” author and social worker Vivian E. Greenberg argues that care provided from a sense of obligation rather than a generous willingness to help is still helpful to the elderly recipient.

One modest (and parochial) complaint: although The Sandwich Generation purports to be national in scope, there is a conspicuous abundance of New Jersey authority and a corresponding absence of truly national focus. Still, The Sandwich Generation looks like useful information and reinforcement for the caretaker caught between parents and children.

The Sandwich Generation is available by contacting Carol Abaya Associates, P.O. Box 132, Wickatunk, NJ 07765-0132. Subscriptions cost $12 per year.

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