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In Between da Sheets

Updated: Mar 31


There’s nothing quite like spending a day in bed binge-watching Netflix movies or a series during the weekend. Recently, I stumbled upon a movie titled 'Our Souls at Night' after bingeing on 'Grace and Frankie.' This film was refreshingly pure and honest, delving into topics such as loneliness, companionship, and sexuality among older adults. It follows the story of two widowed neighbors who agree to platonically sleep in the same bed every night to alleviate their loneliness (as described by Netflix). Like any new relationship, this arrangement starts off awkwardly. I can only imagine the thoughts racing through my mind if I were in their shoes—what to talk about, hoping not to laugh in my sleep, and yes, even debating whether to put on my bonnet. But as the characters grow more comfortable with each other, they become increasingly open about their thoughts and feelings, eventually leading to a romantic relationship.


*sigh


Tell 'em that it's Human Nature...

This movie sparked reflection on our perceptions of older adults having romantic relationships or being sexually active, which can sometimes seem taboo or unlikely in our minds. Why is that? Could it be that we find the idea of sex in our 70s or 80s disgusting or amusing? Perhaps it's rooted in ageist stereotypes that suggest older adults can't be sexually active due to illness, cognitive disability, or mobility issues. Or do we believe that at a certain age, the desire for sex fades away? These limiting beliefs are far from the truth for many older adults. So, let me go ahead and drop some knowledge on you with regards to older adults and sexual intimacy, since I know we will all get “older” sooner than later and I’m sure none of us plan to stop getting the goods.

Let's first start with the most recent research regarding older adults and sex, even though it's somewhat dated, dating back to 2007. A study explored the prevalence of sexual activity and behaviors among older adults, revealing a decline in sexual activity with age. However, a significant number of older adults, even in their 80s and 90s, continue to engage in sexual activity. It's a fact that might surprise many of us.


Now that we know not all older adults spend their Friday nights watching TV, let's address some other issues surrounding attitudes toward sex in late adulthood. Remember Dr. Ruth, the sex therapist from late-night TV? Her appearance on a podcast shed light on why older adults over 70 are often perceived as sexually inactive—it boils down to a lack of effective communication and education. Dr. Ruth emphasized the need for physicians and therapists to receive proper training in discussing sexual health with their older patients. She also stressed the importance of adult children (like us millennials, eventually) being more understanding of the role sex plays in the lives of their parents. And she had a point when she said, 'Stop smirking when you think or hear of people over 70 having sex.' Guilty as charged, I've done it too.


What's Your Point, Christina?


What I have noticed is society shows favoritism towards youthfulness. Society finds it more intriguing to know about 25-year olds having sex than it does people who are in their 70s. Think about it, how many sex scenes have you seen with older adults in movies? With views like that, the message we send to older adults is they shouldn't be living it up sexually, wearing lace cheekies and utilizing other 'enhancements.' I want to be sure that we keep in mind, we too will be crossing the bridge of age 70 and 80 one day, do we want to feel ashamed for verbally expressing our desires or for participating in certain sexual activities? Do we want people to constantly tell us we shouldn't be having intercourse or performing oral sex? Do we want to constantly be reminded about the many changes our reproductive systems go through and have conclusions drawn for why we shouldn't enjoy sexin' it up? Nah.


3 Tips for How to Change Our Views on Sex in Late Adult Life


1. Let's Put Ourselves In Their Shoes: We often hear about the importance of empathy and understanding, especially when it comes to considering different perspectives. Imagine being 89 years old and still enjoying a love song like Silk's 'Freak Me'—would you want your children or grandchildren to criticize you for it? While we might assume that our interests and desires will remain unchanged as we age, younger generations may struggle to comprehend this. It's crucial to recognize our own biases and stereotypes now so that they don't influence our attitudes towards sexuality in the future. By being aware of these tendencies, we can use our knowledge to not allow negative thoughts or language influence our future sexual selves.


2. STOP Assuming: In my research on this topic, I've discovered that we often underestimate what sparks interest for older adults. Assumptions about their disinterest in sex or facing extreme situations leading to a non-active sex life are prevalent. One of the primary reasons behind these myths and stereotypes is our tendency to make assumptions. Seeing someone who is 88, gray-haired, and in a wheelchair might lead us to instantly assume they are incapable of anything, including sexual activity. In the voice of T.I., why we gotta go and do that love, huh? Wheelchair bound or not, fun can be had in the bedroom.

3. Communication: The more we openly communicate about 'taboo' topics concerning older adults, the more they'll feel encouraged to safely participate and less embarrassed. It's crucial to emphasize 'safely participate' because sexually transmitted diseases are just as common in old age as they are among young adults and teens. Interestingly, while we may be accustomed to younger generations discussing sex, we often feel embarrassed when older adults mention it. However, if you were to have a candid conversation about sex with an older adult, such as Big Momma, you might be surprised at how frequently they mention oral sex as a favorite. The fact that such thoughts can evoke surprise highlights the problem. We need to communicate openly and be willing to learn. No one should feel ashamed for desiring an active sex life, regardless of age.


*****

As we continue to reframe how we view getting older and our thoughts towards older adults being sexually active and having a boo, always remember the old sayin:

There may be a little snow on the roof, but baby there’s still fire in the furnace.

Be Blessed,

Christina

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