5 SURPRISING THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT SENIOR SEX
My father died in 1969 at 49 years old. Mom was a couple of years younger. She chose not to remarry. This left her in a bind. She liked to dance. In fact, she went dancing three nights a week into her eighties. Mom needed a dance partner. And boy there were a litany of courters.
First there was Walt. He had a house at the Jersey shore and a boat he let me steer. Not to mention some really cute nieces. Evidently he was a drunk. Then there was Sal who was going to buy me a car at 16. I’m all in with him. Oh. Then there was Tommy. Nice guy. I took his Cadillac to two proms. He dumped mom. Then there was Al, probably her best dance partner, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s. And lastly there was Jim. He was an old south Philly traditional Italian who would beat the crap out of you if he didn’t like you and fawn over you if he did. They dated in their 80s!
What I learned about mom’s relationships is that it was best to adopt the don’t ask don’t know stance.
That said, the thought of your 80+-year-old mom or dad getting it on can be icky. Yet in retirement communities around the world, older folks are hooking up. Relationships don’t end when someone enters a senior community. Why should you be concerned?
Senior Sex is a Health Issue
STD rates for those 55 and older have increased by 43 percent. Over the past two years, some 2.2 million Medicare recipients received free tests for sexually transmitted diseases, about the same as the number who received colonoscopies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports significant increases in STDs between 2010 and 2014 among adults 65 and over:
- Chlamydia infections increased by about 52 percent
- Syphilis infections rose by about 65 percent
- Gonorrhea cases increased by more than 90 percent
Many older adults didn’t get the safe-sex messages that younger generations received so their condom use is lower. As you age and your immune system weakens, fighting these diseases becomes harder. Add to that the availability and marketing of sex-enhancing drugs…well you can see the issue.
They’re Having a Lot of Sex
According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, more than 3,000 men and women participated in a study that found that 73 percent among those 57-64; 53 percent among 65-74 and 26 percent of those 75-85 were having sex.
Let’s go to the extreme side – nursing homes. A survey of 250 residents in 15 Texas nursing homes found that eight percent said they had sexual intercourse in the preceding month. In the Journal Clinical Geriatrics, in a study of 63 physically dependent nursing home residents 90% said they had sexual thoughts, fantasies and dreams.
You Need to Broach the Topic at the Right Time and for the Right Reason
If your parents are still together it’s probably not your business to butt in. If they are singled, widowed, widower – then perhaps you can have a prying eye. Understand where you are coming from first. The thought of your mom or dad in a new relationship can be frightening, maybe hurtful. Subliminally you might want to sabotage the relationship.
Put things in perspective. As you get older, touch is a basic human need and sex is often as much about the cuddling as it is about intercourse. Perhaps your parent is revealing a deep loneliness.
The conversation about taking away the car keys is the most uncomfortable conversation you could have. Talking to your parents’ about sex actually ranks third.
Ease into a conversation. It is natural to be curious about your parents’ partner. So ask. Older adults are much more forthcoming than you might think. That could then lead to the other topics – safe sex, loneliness.
You should have real concerns about their physical ability to have sex and their cognitive health to comprehend consensual sex.
Dementia Does Not End a Healthy Sex Life
True story. A son walked in on his 95-year-old father in bed with his 82-year-old girlfriend in an assisted-living facility. Both suffered from dementia. He went ballistic and removed his father from the home. After that, the woman stopped eating. She lost 21 pounds, was treated for depression, and was hospitalized for dehydration. So the relationship was real.
If someone is in a home, you have to pointedly ask how relationships and sex are handled. Many nursing-home workers simply don’t look at the elderly as mature adults, but as children who must be policed out of fear of legal or medical repercussion.
Most facilities do not train their staff to see residents as sexual beings. Providers walk a fine line. Risk can be minimized with sensitivity and empathy toward resident needs. The Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, New York is a national model so I would encourage readers to see how they handle these issues.
If your loved one is not in a senior living facility, then you must be diligent and any home care company you employ must be sensitive.
There are Particular Benefits of Sex as We Age
Sex is an important part of emotional and physical health. In a relationship, sexual activity allows you to establish intimacy and express your feelings for your partner. It also benefits your physical health by reducing stress and making you feel good about yourself. Sex is connected with more and better-quality sleep. A study of 29,000 men showed that those aged 46 to 81developed much less prostate cancer.
Senior relationships, including sex, are delicate topics. Intervening in a parent’s or elder loved one’s business can spell trouble. However, you have to use both judgement and discretion about when to speak up. There are real health issues involved and as dementia worsens consent issues play into it as well.
What about you? Do you find yourself in a situation where you feel compelled to inquire about a loved one’s relationships? If so, have you thought about what you would say? You want to help and you also want to preserve the relationship with an elder so do think through the issues of when it is right to act and what to say when you speak. Please join the conversation.
This is a blog from my Hospital Impact article in September. I included the first paragraph then please link to th original material. Thanks.
I recently detailed, in a Huffington Post blog post, the amazing disconnect among physicians caring for my mom during her last hospitalization prior to her passing on June 2. In a nutshell: A hospital that lives and breathes the patient experience, even with all of its EMR sophistication and patient experience processes, still treated mom in isolated silos.
From my Charlotte Today appearance, November, 2014.
Finding The Right Medical Alert Systems
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one-in-four American seniors will experience a fall each year, among other emergencies. And, according to the AARP, 90% of seniors want to be self-sufficient for as long as possible. Therefore, having reliable emergency alert systems is key in allowing seniors to keep their independence while remaining safe.
Most family members worry about the safety of their loved one, so a trustworthy medical alert system is the answer to their concern. Medical alert systems enable you to continue living independently in your own home. These personal emergency response systems (PERS) were first popularized in the 1980s with the famous line “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”.
Reviews.com, a company dedicated to conducting unbiased reviews on products and services, recently looked into finding the most reliable medical alert systems. In their review of 69 PERS systems, Bay Alarm Medical was picked as the best medical alert system.
To find the best, over 100 hours were spent talking with experts in elder care, reviewing service agreements and hand-testing top picks. The two top picks have nationwide coverage and do not require a full home security system. The customer service is what set them apart. They had straightforward terms, a seamless ordering process, up front pricing and an informatively helpful website.
According to the CDC, the bathroom is the most likely place for a fall to occur. Automatic fall detection ranked a system higher in their review, as well as having waterproof equipment.
Their review excluded providers that lock you into a contract or required a technician to install. Brands that charged for activation, equipment, installation or cancellation were narrowed down as well.
Bay Alarm – Best Overall
- Straightforward web ordering
- Website has video demonstrations
- Website has a weekly blog
- Pricing and terms are clear
- Set-up is easy
The human element is where Bay Alarm really stands out. The monitoring representatives radiated kindness and warmth. Within 20 minutes after the device was unplugged to test the backup battery a representative called to notify that there was power signal loss. Other providers did not do this.
The device looks clunky with just a big red “Help” button. It also calls out “two bars” or “three bars” to tell you your cellular signal; not particularly helpful. On average, it took 60 seconds to connect to a monitoring center; slightly longer than Medical Guardian and Mobile Help.
The design is basic but Bay Alarm had 52 hours of backup battery life (only 30-36 hours for competitors tested). It’s easy to set up and passed range tests. Bay Alarm would see you through an emergency.
MobileHelp – Best Technology
- Make their own devices
- Upgrade options including automatic fall detection, blood pressure monitors and wall-mounted buttons
- Provides a necklace pendant anda watch option
- Modern and sporty
The base station, wristband device and necklace win in the technology competition. The wristband looks a bit like the Apple Watch and the necklace pendant is small and discreet.
The only real drawback is that MobileHelp offers AT&T cellular service only. There isn’t a landline option. MobileHelp isn’t the way to go if you don’t have good AT&T coverage in your area.
Medical Guardian – Honorable Mention
- Emergency callback was a 49-second average
- Satisfactory bedside manner of representatives
- No free trial period
- Locks you into a minimum 90-day contract
Did You Know
Rentals – These are rentals. Providers are strict about pieces shipped to you being returned in good condition or you will be charged fees.
You’re mostly likely talking to a trained EMT or nurse – and if not, most providers proclaim their care reps as being approved by the CSAA or “UL-Listed”.