UAB researcher: ‘We’re never too old for sex;’ US now embraces notion of sex and seniors
Wednesday, February 09, 2011, 11:59 AM
By Press-Register staff
Pushing 90, actress Betty White is still making jokes on TV about sex. Older couples lounge in bathtubs on mountaintops in commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs.
“People want intimacy and physical closeness,â€ Diane Tucker, a professor in the UAB Department of Psychology, said in a news release. â€œThose needs donâ€™t change as we age.”
Kay Knowlton, a licensed, professional counselor and certified sex therapist with a private practice who also works with the UAB Center for Palliative Care, said sexuality in older people is just as important as it is at any other time in life. â€œWeâ€™re never too old for sex,â€ Knowlton says.
â€œWhen weâ€™re young, we think sex is for people our own age â€” maybe a little older,â€ Knowlton says. â€œStudies have shown that even middle-age people find it difficult to believe that their parents are having sex at 65 or 75. But we never really think of ourselves as old. Aches and pains aside, most of us believe weâ€™re still the same person we were 30 to 40 years ago.â€
Dr. Andrew Duxbury, a professor of geriatrics at UAB, said seniors are looking at retirement as the next stage of an active, meaningful life â€” not the peaceful rest of previous generations. Sex is still an important part of that life.
Duxbury points out that famous actresses including Susan Sarandon, Cher, Bette Midler, Sally Field and Goldie Hawn have turned 65. â€œDo we consider them old?â€ he asked.
Tucker, who also is a psychologist on UABâ€™s outpatient palliative care team, says the human need for closeness and intimacy doesn’t change, even though the way the way those needs are expressed might change.
â€œThere are times for passion, whether you are 20 or 70,â€ she said. â€œBut there is also a time when our needs for physical contact may change, when we need touch, closeness and gentleness more than the physical acts of lovemaking.”
Knowlton said that in her experience with palliative care patients, the disruption of physical intimacy often is one of the most stressful parts of coping with major medical issues.
â€œI talk to spouses who tell me that they lose all opportunity for contact with their long-time partner when that partner is so ill that they canâ€™t even hold them, canâ€™t lie next to them on a bed. At a time when touch and closeness is so vitally important, itâ€™s often impossible to achieve,â€ Knowlton said.