Although sexual education has existed since the early twentieth century, the curriculum presented at that time emphasized abstinence and dissemination of the information throughout the country was sporadic at best. Therefore, it is highly likely that most older adults (65+) did not receive formal sexual education during their formative years. Older adults have a need to be informed about their sexual health. Understanding one’s sexual health is just as important as understanding one’s heart health, bone health or cognitive health. Older adults are still having sex and the need for re-education is necessary. Understanding sexual health in older adults makes it easier to address sexual health concerns and ensure that older adults are practicing safe sex and are participating in healthy relationships.
As humans, we develop every day, from the beginning to the end of life. It is common knowledge that babies develop in stages. Most babies crawl, then walk, then run. Children’s bodies change as they get older and adult bodies do the same. These changes also apply to sexual development, which is one aspect of sexual health. For example. as a result of normal hormonal changes, women experience decreases in estrogen which may result in vaginal dryness. Changes in testosterone levels in men may result in erectile dysfunction. But don’t assume that all changes are due to age, changes in sexual health may be related to factors like medication or they may be the product of some other medical condition. For these reasons, communication with your health care provider becomes vital to help you differentiate between typical and atypical sexual development (Thomas-Cottingham, 2017). Sexual health can be a difficult topic to address with an elder, but by educating caregivers Discover65plus hopes to make sexual health a regular and educated conversation between caregivers or healthcare professionals and the elderly. If you can understand the changes in sexual health experienced by older adults than it may make it easier to address these concerns with older adults. Having an open conversation with the elder under your care may open up a door to health concerns that were never addressed before.
Social relationships: Social isolation
Social isolation is as detrimental to an older person’s health as smoking, being obese or being physically inactive. Older adults who report being lonely are more likely to die sooner than those who do not report being lonely. Also, older adults who report being lonely are more likely to experience declines in mobility. According to the Council on Aging, it is estimated that 17% of all Americans over the age of 65 are isolated. When it comes to caring for older adults it must be kept in mind that social interaction is as important to the needs of the elderly as any other method of improving health. The health benefits that come with interaction and building relationships with people and loved ones are extraordinary in that it can help decrease the risk for certain mental and physical health concerns and increase quality of life. If you are a caregiver of an elder who insists on isolating themselves, try new ways to keep them active with their family or in the community.
Social relationships: Dating among older adults (romantic relationships)
Among older, unmarried older individuals 14% are in a dating relationship (Brown & Shinohara, 2104). There are unique issues associated with older adults and dating. These include gender differences with men and women expressing an interest in dating for different reasons. Men are more interested in marriage than women. Women are interested in avoiding a care giver burden. Despite what some may think, older adults 65+ are still sexually active and active in the dating world. Providing support or services to help ensure the safety of these older adults while dating and in romantic relationships matters. It is important to remember that depriving older adults or anybody of any age of romantic relationships can lead to depression or social isolation which have very negative effects on health. Being able to address dating with older adults can help to better the relationship between caregivers and the elderly, making them more comfortable to speak and share things about their mental or physical health that might be related to dating.
Social relationships: Friendship among older adults
Friendships evolved as we age. Friendships take differing form as we age. What friendships look like during childhood differ from what friendships look like in adolescents, young adulthood and older adulthood. Older adults may see a decrease in their social circle as they lose friendships with changes in role, retirement, friends of children leave and through the passing of friends. Older adults are also more selective in choice of friends. Social pruning is seen where older adults do not invest in relationships that do not offer reciprocity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as older adults have a way of connecting and bonding with other people old and young. The benefits of older adults and social interaction are surprising. Studies have shown that remaining social with others helps increase happiness and quality of life which can have positive impacts on health. Making sure that the older adult under your care remains socially involved is important for maintaining and improving certain aspects of health that may not be able to be addressed with medication or a visit to the doctor.