Exploring the Psycho-Social Attitudes of Older Adult Sexuality: Cultural Myths, Misinformation, and Misconceptions

The World Health Organization defines personal sexual health as: “… a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled (WHO, 2006, p. 5).”

Aging is a natural part of living process and sexuality operates on a continuum. Sexuality does not simply dissipate as an individual goes through the aging cycle. Normal aging brings psychodynamic changes (e.g., social, physical, spiritual, emotional, cognitive, somatic) in both men and women. Many of these changes can impact an individual’s holistic sexual functioning (e.g., sexual health and wellness, sexual self-schema/sexual self-esteem).
The context of human sexuality can be viewed as a result of the delicate balance of emotional, social, and physical issues. Sexual functioning and sexual intimacy have the potential to be impacted as a result of many specific organic and biological health factors. Furthermore, a positive holistic perspective may help to avoid further perpetuation of damaging myths, misperceptions, and misunderstandings of mature sexuality (specifically concerning the sexuality of older adults 50 years and older) globally.

Many sexual problems/issues of sexually active older adults require assistance (e.g., counseling, consultations, treatments) from helping professionals. An improved understanding of the connection between natural aging and holistic sexuality (e.g., spiritual, psychosocial, intimate relationship satisfaction, biological, and physical health) can help professionals (e.g., physicians, clinicians, therapists, counselors, etc.) better serve older adults with sexual issues and concerns. It is the investigators hope that the results of this study can help to dispel negative sociocultural attitudes of concerning adults 50 years and older in the United States. Improved professional knowledge of treatable sexual problems/issues could help to ameliorate patient counseling, consultation, and education.


Ambler, D. R., Bieber, E. J., & Diamond, M. P. (2012). Sexual Function in Elderly Women: A Review of Current Literature. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5(1), 16.
Bauer, M., McAuliffe, L., & Nay, R. (2007). Sexuality, health care and the older person: an overview of the literature. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 2(1), 63-68.
Bradford, A., & Meston, C. M. (2007). Senior sexual health: The effects of aging on sexuality. Innovations in clinical practice: Focus on sexual health, 35-45.
de Oliveira Silva, D. N., Pereira Marinelli, N., Marques Costa, A. C., Gomes Santos, R. C., Ribeiro de Sousa, A., & Ribeiro de Lima, J. (2015). PERCEPTION OF ELDERLY ABOUT THEIR SEXUALITY. Journal of Nursing UFPE / Revista De Enfermagem UFPE, 9(5), 7811-7818 8p. doi:10.5205/reuol.6121-57155-1-ED.0905201510
Dyer, K., & das Nair, R. (2013). Why Don’t Healthcare Professionals Talk About Sex? A Systematic Review of Recent Qualitative Studies Conducted in the United Kingdom. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10(11), 2658-2670.
Emlet, C. A. (2006). “You’re awfully old to have this disease”: Experiences of stigma and ageism in adults 50 years and older living with HIV/AIDS. The Gerontologist, 46(6), 781-790.
Enjoying sex later in life. (2014). Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 22(2), 4-5.

Farrell, J., & Belza, B. (2012). Are older patients comfortable discussing sexual health with nurses?. Nursing research, 61(1), 51-57.
Frankowski, A. C., & Clark, L. J. (2009). Sexuality and intimacy in assisted living: Residents’ perspectives and experiences. Sexuality Research and Social Policy Journal of NSRC, 6(4), 25-37.
Flaget-Greener, M., Gonzalez, C. A., & Sprankle, E. (2015). Are sociodemographic characteristics, education and training, and attitudes toward older adults’ sexuality predictive of willingness to assess sexual health in a sample of US psychologists?. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 30(1), 10-24 15p. doi:10.1080/14681994.2014.948297
Katz, A. (2011). Sex, Health and Aging. Nursing for Women’s Health, 15(6), 519-521 3p. doi:10.1111/j.1751-486X.2011.01683.x
Kuppuswamy, M., Davies, H., Spira, A., Zeiss, A., & Tinklenberg, J. (2007). Sexuality and intimacy between individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their partners: caregivers describe their experiences. Clinical Gerontologist, 30(3), 75-81 7p.
Langer, N. (2009). Late life love and intimacy. Educational Gerontology, 35(8), 752-764.
Langer-Most, O., & Langer, N. (2010). Aging and sexuality: How much do gynecologists know and care?. Journal of women & aging, 22(4), 283-289.
Lindau, S. T., Schumm, L. P., Laumann, E. O., Levinson, W., O’Muircheartaigh, C. A., & Waite, L. J. (2007). A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine, 357(8), 762–774. http://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa067423
McAuliffe, L., Bauer, M., & Nay, R. (2007). Barriers to the expression of sexuality in the older person: the role of the health professional. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 2(1), 69-75.
McGrath, M., & Lynch, E. (2014). Occupational therapists’ perspectives on addressing sexual concerns of older adults in the context of rehabilitation. Disability & Rehabilitation, 36(8), 651-657 7p. doi:10.3109/09638288.2013.805823
Miracle, A., & Miracle, T. (2009). Chapter 16: sexuality in late adulthood. In B. Bonder, V. Dal Bello-Haas, M. Wagner (Eds.), Functional Performance in Older Adults (3rd Edition) (pp. 409-426 18p). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: F.A. Davis Company/Publishers.
Nay, R., McAuliffe, L., & Bauer, M. (2007). Sexuality: from stigma, stereotypes and secrecy to coming out, communication and choice. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 2(1), 76-80 5p.
Price, B. (2009). Exploring attitudes towards older people’s sexuality. Nursing Older People, 21(6), 32-39 8p.
Ravanipour, M., Gharibi, T., & Gharibi, T. (2013). Elderly Women’s Views About Sexual Desire During Old Age: A Qualitative Study. Sexuality & Disability, 31(2), 179-188 10p. doi:10.1007/s11195-013-9295-7
Syme, M. L. (2014). The Evolving Concept of Older Adult Sexual Behavior and Its Benefits. Generations, 38(1), 35-41 7p.
Syme, M. L., Klonoff, E. A., Macera, C. A., & Brodine, S. K. (2013). Predicting Sexual Decline and Dissatisfaction Among Older Adults: The Role of Partnered and Individual Physical and Mental Health Factors. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences, 68(3), 323-332 10p. doi:geronb/gbs087
Taylor, A., & Gosney, M. A. (2011). Sexuality in older age: essential considerations for healthcare professionals. Age and Ageing, afr049.
Taylor, B., & Davis, S. (2007). The extended PLISSIT model for addressing the sexual wellbeing of individuals with an acquired disability or chronic illness. Sexuality and Disability, 25(3), 135-139.
Villar, F., Celdrán, M., Fabà, J., & Serrat, R. (2014). Barriers to sexual expression in residential aged care facilities ( RACFs): comparison of staff and residents’ views. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(11), 2518-2527 10p. doi:10.1111/jan.12398
Queiroz, M. C., Lourenço, R. E., Coelho, M. F., Miranda, K. L., Barbosa, R. B., & Bezerra, S. F. (2015). Social representations of sexuality for the elderly. Revista Brasileira De Enfermagem, 68(4), 577-581 5p. doi:10.1590/0034-7167.2015680413i


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s