Why train your staff about the sexuality of older adults?
I understand if it’s hard to imagine love, intimacy, sex, and connection for older people across the lifespan. Add the prospect of dementia, and that complicates the conversation even further. But if we can’t imagine this life for our elders, if we can’t talk about the possibility of sex and romance between older adults, then we’re denying them lives of dignity and pleasure at a time when they need every positive reason to live. Sure, you’re probably thinking, easy for her to say, she teaches this. But old people having sex? It’s inappropriate. It’s gross. Grandma having sex? It’s downright horrifying.
How can we talk about sex more comfortably?
Many of us were taught not to talk about sex in public, especially when it comes to old people having sex.
But in my classrooms, I do things a bit differently. Because old people do have sex. And if they aren’t having it, many are still thinking about it, longing for it, and desiring some kind of intimacy and connection.
When adults are living in a senior living community, staff need to feel comfortable addressing the issues affecting those in their care, and this training offers practical information based on medically-accurate research to do just that.
What’s a training on sexuality and aging like?
I create an environment where learning about such delicate issues is done in a frank, humorous, research-based, and compassionate manner.
I include both didactic and activity-based segments and I work with management prior to the class to learn as much as I can about your unique environment to make the training as applicable to real work as I possibly can.
With enough time for questions and discussion, participants walk away from my trainings better able to cope with a whole range of challenges. (Don’t just take my word for it, check out the testimonials here.)
Who needs this type of training?
I offer training for clinical and administrative staff, nursing care staff, support staff, professionals who provide direct care, residents, and family members.
Topics include physiology, intimacy, cognitive impairment, sexual health, gender identity, sexual orientation, drug interactions, protection, new models of consent, and more.
When I start talking about sex and older adults in an honest way, it’s refreshing and readily applicable to work the very next day.
Photo by Shana Sureck
What are the common questions I deal with in my training?
When I speak to older adults who live in assisted living or other types of senior housing, I often get questions like this:
Am I normal if I still want sex at my age?
Why am I attracted to someone younger than me?
What if I can’t get an erection?
These questions remind me that we know very little about the sexual lives of older adults. Most people consider there to be an “expiration date” on sex, and that mindset is negatively affecting the way our seniors are living.
What are some of the challenges?
Many people believe that the most significant challenges to sexuality at an older age are physiological. For women, the inner lining of the vaginal canal may become thin and less lubricated, causing pain with friction. For men, erections may be slow or non-existent. Dementia and other cognitive impairments can drastically alter personality. But other challenges may be directly related to stigma. A family member may be fearful that their mom’s new boyfriend is out to swindle her even though she seems head over heels in love. An unmarried interracial couple wants to deepen their relationship but the other residents in their building look askance at them when they’re holding hands. A transgender woman is afraid to be herself because the senior housing she lives in was just bought out by a conservative religious organization.
This kind of fear – and lack of information -- may be a key to the whole problem. One woman wanted to know how to have sex with her husband when his penis no longer gets erect. She asked: “How do I even begin to think about bringing a sex toy into my bed after 50 years of marriage?” Another woman, who recently lost her husband of 67 years, asked whether she might be able to have a relationship with another woman because of the scarcity of men in her facility.
I offer the latest research and most accessible resources. For painful intercourse, I like to use the term ‘outercourse’ which refers to sexual behaviors that can create pleasure without penetration. For dementia, we need assessments, consults, conversations in each senior living community – which means training about sex, boundaries, and consent.