The idea that older people have no interest in sex and intimacy is not uncommon but their needs, and how best to meet them, must be recognised. Images of older people in intimate relationships are rare and considered a taboo. The sexuality of care home residents is particularly challenging and often seen as a problem, instead of as a right. According to research the need of care residents for sexuality and initimacy are often absent from policy and practice.
The situation might be further complicated for residents identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ), who can feel obliged to go “back into the closet” when they enter care.
But older LGBTIQ people can also be affected by ageism and face multiple discrimination in other areas of their lives, including housing (homophobic attitudes of staff and residents in care homes ); social protection (eligibility for survivors’ benefits in both state and private pension schemes); family-derived rights (property inheritance rules, insurance, child-care responsibility or next of kin); social exclusion (higher risk of loneliness, isolation and depression due to weaker family tights or lack of social circles).
Moreover many LGBTIQ people remain invisible among older people themselves and seniors’ organisations may fail to investigate their needs. This is due to the prejudice many older people still have on the issue on sexual orientation. At the same time older LGBTIQ people have difficulties to be recognized within their own LGTBIQ communities because of their old age.
A growing number of older people are living with HIV/AIDS. This is because older people are less likely than younger people to get tested, so they may not know they infected. Signs of HIV/AIDS can be mistaken for the aches and pains of normal ageing. Some older people may feel ashamed or afraid of being tested. Finally, doctors often overlook older people’s sexuality and do not think to test older people for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Join us between the 5th and 11th November to discuss ageism and sexuality!