Sexuality and Aging
In general, people are living longer and being sexually active for a greater portion of their lives (Elders, 2010). In the later years of life, most people begin to note certain physical changes taking place in their sexual response patterns (Herbenick et al., 2010b), as described in Chapter 6. Some women and men who understand the nature of these changes accept them in stride. Others observe them with concern.
An important source of the confusion and frustration that many aging people feel is the prevailing notion that old age is a sexless time (Kellett, 2000). Why has aging in our society and in other societies often been associated with sexlessness? (See I Figure 13.2
I Figure 13.2 The percentage of respondents in each country who agreed with the statement "Older people no longer have sex."
SOURCE: Adapted from Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors (2002).
for a global comparison.) Part of the answer is that U. S. culture is still influenced by a philosophy that equates sexuality with procreation and makes it seem not quite acceptable for older people to have and express sexual needs. Moreover, the media usually link love, sex, and romance to the young. However, as the percentage of seniors in the population continues to increase, the consumer goods market more frequently presents vibrant, sensual ads featuring older women and men (Jarrell, 2000). In addition, as the generation that reached adulthood during the so-called sexual revolution era moves into senior citizenship, the notion of a sexless old age may become obsolete, and the view of sexuality as a potential for a lifetime of pleasure will become more common (Elders, 2010).