The life expectancy has increased making the larger proportion of the world’s population to comprise the older people most of them being above the age of 65 years. The sexual health of these old people has not been keenly attended to, for long. The sexual concerns and problems of these people have not been taken good care of. The cultural aspects have led to the perspective that old people are sexually inactive, and that is the reason this issue has been neglected for long. It has been assumed that the old people are not interested with sex, and they are unattractive physically. They assume that old people cannot achieve sexual arousal. It is extremely unfortunate that these perspectives and negative attitudes about the sexual behavior of old people have gone to the extent that even the old people were convinced that they are sexually inactive. The general population and even the professionals helping the old people tend to believe so.
The media is a greater tool that influences the general community. Cultural and social perspectives sexual issues in relation to old people in the media adversely affect how old people regard their sexual status. It is, therefore, necessary to educate old people of how to handle their sexual lives and the media should take that role.
The society in general imposes a lot of constraints and challenges on old people regarding their sexual health in institutions that take care of old people. They are adversely affected to the extent that they convince themselves that are inactively sexually. This perspective can only be wiped-out or reduced through vigorous education campaigns. The old people should be taught how to cope up with the negative perspective and attitudes towards old people and this can be done through psychological counseling as well as education campaigns. The society is held responsible for the neglect of the sexual life of the old people. The society has always restricted the sexual life of the old people.
Majority of the nursing staff has always neglected the expression of the sexual life of older people. They failed to inform them of the matters of importance in the sexual life of the old people. The old people were only encouraged on the use of hugs and kisses but not the sexual behavior. This attitude by the nursing staff has necessitated the need for educational campaigns so that nurses and change their attitude and perspective towards old people so that the rights and needs of older people are well taken care of both at homes and in hospitals.
Sexual Frequency and Satisfaction as shaped by Religion
It is always easy to think that sexual interest dies as one becomes aged. However, contrarily, empirical studies have shown that sexual interest is not really related to one’s age. A recent study by National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) showed that a staggeringly small proportion of men aged above 75 years are completely apathetic to sex. As a matter of fact, many are still sexually active even though what can be termed to be reduced is the number of sexual encounters that they prefer to have (McFarland, Uecker, & Regnerus, 2011). While noting that sexual satisfaction is a strong variable with regards to marital quality, most studies on sex among adult people have focused on sexual satisfaction among older people. And even as such studies seek to affirm the relationship between sexual satisfaction and quality of marriage, there are some studies that have sought to look into the issue of adult sexual frequency and satisfaction from different and probably insightful perspectives. One of such insightful perspectives is the role of religion in influencing decision pertaining to sex among the aging population.
According to McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus (2011) religion can possibly take a center role in influencing several decisions, inclusive of decisions relating to sexual activities, among the aging population. This is possible perhaps because of the hypothesis that religion increasingly becomes an important factor when one ages; religion is particularly important to the older population hence has a potential of influencing the decisions pertaining to sex that older people may tend to make (Koenig, Kvale, & Ferrel, 1988; Wink & Dillon, 2002 as cited in McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus, 2011). Notably, according to the McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus (2011) there is a paucity of information that touches on the issue of sex and the aging population. There are several reasons that can be leveled in explanation of this paucity. Firstly religious institutions concentrate their attention on pre marital sex as well as extra marital sex. Additionally, much of the studies of sexual behavior always focus on the early stages of marriage and not that later stages of marriage in which the aging people belong. Again, the few studies that have been conduct with the elderly in mind have only dwelled so much on the issue of extramarital sexual behavior.
Nonetheless, it is alleged that for the unmarried people, the level of one’s religiosity unquestionably influences the number of partners that one has (McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus, 2011). The General Social Survey of 1993-2002 found out that an unmarried religious man have fewer sexual encounters with few partners compared to an unmarried non-religious man (McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus, 2011). Religion is known for its strong stance against premarital sex strongly opposes- religious institutions oppose sex outside marriage because of threat that such an act poses to the marriage institution leading. Again It is not that according to the nature of our society, religion has more impact on women because women are more religious when compared to men.
McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus (2011) in their attempt to bring to light the role of religion in determining sexual behavior among the older population carried out a research whose results were somewhat insightful. The average age of the sampled people, according to the researchers was 70.3 years. 30 percent of the sampled population who indicated that they were marriage refuted having sex in the previous year while a considerable 25% reported having sex once at least every month. Most importantly about half of the respondents indicated that they go to church at least once every week with another significant number the respondent admitting that most of their undertakings are governed by religious principles.
In giving their results as a correlation matrix showing “the relationship between sexual outcomes, religious attendance, religious integration, social support, and relationship characteristic variables”, the researcher realized that indeed there is a relationship between sexual frequency (and satisfaction) and religion especially because religion has some stake in spousal and social support (McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus, 2011). This assertion underscores the fact the spousal and social support have always been pointed out to be among the most significant determining factors in light of sexual satisfaction and sexual frequency. There was yet another momentous finding that the researchers reported in the article; denominational differences also affected sexual satisfaction and frequency. Anecdotally, “Catholics had lower levels of emotional satisfaction than evangelical Protestants” (McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus, 2011 p. 10).
Sexual Expression in Later Life Having noted that religion also plays a significant role in the regulation the sexual behaviorior in the aging, it becomes inevitable for one to stand how this sexual behavior is expressed by the aging. The discussion of sexual expression according to DeLamater (2012) can best be captured when sexual expression is viewed as sexual functioning. DeLamater (2012) notes that there is no distinct definition of sexual functioning even though the definition of the antonym to this term is readily available perhaps due to the fact that most studies on old-age sexual activities are commonly based on sexual dysfunction.
Sexual expression on the aging is also influenced by relationship status (DeLamater & Moorman, 2007). The number of sexual encounters by the aging depends on one being married, single, widowed, divorced, or dating. Older people who are married or dating seem to be having sex more frequently than divorced, widowed or single aging people. From the look of things, it is easy to assert that physical health is another factor that influences sexual expression in aging people. However as DeLamater (2012) and DeLamater & Moorman (2007) affirm, there is not research that affirms that physical health at old age influences once sexual behavior particularly in light of the number sexual encounters that one get in a given period of time.
As noted earlier, men and women remain sexually activity even to their 80s. However, men have been found to be more sexually active in their old age than their female counterparts due to several reasons with leading reason being that women attain menopause earlier than men. Again, this difference might be due to loss of partners and differences in health.
Sexual Function in Elderly Women
In the context of older women, their sexuality may be reduced due to several reasons. Perchance a detailed discussion of the causes of diminishing sexual desire in women is beyond the scope of this paper. But to say the least, older women have reduced amounts of estrogen in the circulation after menopause (Ambler, Bieber, & Diamond, 2012). Additionally, there are also various changes in genital structures, for example, reduction in size of the vulvar, labial and clitoral tissue. A reduction in size of the cervix and uterus in women is also a possible explanation to why women have reduced sexual desire compared to their male counterparts at old age. The vaginal walls are thinned and lose elasticity (Ambler, Bieber, & Diamond, 2012). These pharmacological factors play a greater role in health problems and complications at old age. The drugs that have a negative effect on the nervous system may also have an impact on the health status of the old age people (Ambler, Bieber, & Diamond, 2012; DeLamater & Moorman, 2007).
Concisely, the topic of sexual behavior in health aging people is under researched even though the few existing researches on the same have produced insightful findings. For instance, the study by McFarland, Uecker, and Regnerus (2011) was utilitarian in bringing to light the relationship between religiosity and sexual behavior at old age. As the researchers found out, religion has a significant influence on sexual behavior in old people. Denominational differences also have some slight effect on sexual behavior exhibited by old people. DeLamater (2012) also proved sexual expression in old people is affected by gender as well as attitude.
Ambler, D. R., Bieber, E. J., & Diamond, M. P. (2012). Sexual Function in Elderly Women: A Review of Current Literature. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 5(1), 16-27.
DeLamater, J. (2012). Sexual Expression in Later Life: A Review and Synthesis. Journal of Sex Research, 49(2-3), 125-141.
DeLamater, J., & Moorman, S. M. (2007). Sexual Behavior in Later Life. Journal of Aging and Health, XX(X), 1-25.
McFarland, M. J., Uecker, J. E., & Regnerus, M. D. (2011). The Role of Religion in Shaping Sexual Frequency and Satisfaction: Evidence from Married and Unmarried Older Adults. J Sex Res., 48(2-3), 297-308.