Sexual Health News for Senior Citizens

Sex Health News for Seniors

Senior citizens keeping web hot with discussions about sex

curious couple searching the internetNew study monitored discussions on websites in U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia

June 30, 2015 - A newly published study indicates senior citizens and other older adults are keeping the web hot with discussions about the joys of sex and the sharing of advice about how to keep their mojos working.

"Websites geared toward older adults are providing this population with new opportunities to discuss and explore its sexuality," according to the research published by Dr. Galit Nimrod, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Dr. Liza Berdychevsky of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

According to their paper published online in the Journal of Leisure Research, senior communities offer notable potential for helping people cope with the three primary sexual vulnerabilities that occur in later life: health issues and life circumstances that affect sexuality, difficulties communicating with health care providers about sex-related problems and limited access to sexual health information.

 

"Many older people preserve both a high interest in sex and a high involvement in sexual activities," says Dr. Berdychevsky, who completed graduate and undergraduate studies at BGU and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism at U of I.

"The popularity of sex-related discussions in seniors' online communities suggests that in a reality of limited alternatives for open and direct sex-related communication, seniors are finding channels to satisfy their needs for information and support."

Dr. Nimrod, an associate professor in BGU's Department of Communication Studies and a research fellow at its Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging, and Dr. Berdychevsky conducted an online ethnographic study - or netnography - in which they examined discussions of sexual topics in 14 online communities geared to adults with a mean age of 64.5. Seven of the websites were based in the United States, four in the United Kingdom, two in Canada, and one in Australia.

The researchers leveraged an existing data archive of all the boards' messages for a one-year period and filtered the posts using various keywords related to sex. While sex-related discussion threads were a small portion of these messages, the researchers found that the threads with sexual content were quite popular, with some posts viewed as many as 5,000 times.

The anonymity of cyberspace enabled some seniors to overcome shyness or embarrassment and share their uncensored thoughts about sex for the first time, according to their posts. For people who received little or no sex education during their youth, online consultations with peers enabled them to expand their sexual knowledge and overcome obstacles to sexual fulfillment.

Seniors' discussions of sexual subjects were lively and wide-ranging, the researchers found, with participants swapping opinions and information about topics such as age differences between sexual partners, taboos, same-sex marriage, pornography, prostitution, and the use of sexual aids, toys and sex-enhancing drugs.

How the researchers found the discussions:

Communities’ names also made them easy-to-locate by interested seniors, who could find them by a simple Google search. Posts that included keywords related to sex (e.g., sex and its derivatives, intimacy, libido, romance, love, lust, etc.) were filtered, resulting in a preliminary dataset of 6,712 posts (with occasional overlaps between the posts and linguistic inaccuracies) ranging in length from a few lines to several paragraphs.”

Websites Used in Study

Florida Retirement Forums was the only one not serving a global audience. These communities served adults aged 50 years old and over. A recent survey conducted with their users revealed that most community members were 55-75 years old, and the mean was 64.7 years (Nimrod, 2014).

U.S. websites:

Senior-Net,

Retirement Community,

The Over 50 Golden Group,

Cool Grandma,

Early Retirement Forum,

Florida Retirement Forums, and

The Little-Brown-Jug Forum

Four from United Kingdom:

Age-Net,

IDF [I don’t feel] 50,

Pensioners Forum, and

Retired Magazines.

Two from Canada:

50 plus and

Seniors Daily 

One from Australia:

About Seniors

Some members wrote about how much they relished opportunities to engage in intellectual discussions about sex, and an especially popular topic was societal stereotypes about older adults' sexuality, the researchers found.

Of particular interest was society's lack of acceptance of sexuality in older adulthood, the reasons for this ageist view and the importance of changing it. Some participants recounted bad experiences when they attempted to discuss sexual problems with clinicians who ignored or dismissed their concerns, and other seniors disclosed they were too embarrassed to even initiate such conversations.

Other seniors reported that their sex lives and relationships offline were enriched as a result of their online activity, which emboldened them to talk more freely with their partners about their sexual needs and overcome hang-ups to try new sexual practices that they previously considered sinful or taboo.

"The most significant changes from these online sex-related communications were cognitive and emotional, including a greater sense of entitlement for sexual pleasure and fulfillment, loosened inhibitions and a better understanding of the self and others," Nimrod says. "Members described various kinds of reappraisal that they achieved through online discussions, such as seeing sex differently or discovering strategies that affected - or had the potential to impact - their sex lives."

Why the researchers pursued this study:

“Studies of sex in later life have demonstrated that many older adults are sexually active and that people continue to feel sexy and are able to physically express their sexuality beyond their reproductive years (Cooperman, Arnsten, & Klein, 2007; DeLamater & Sill, 2005; Lindau et al., 2007; Marsiglio & Donnelly, 1991; Walz, 2002).

“Although some studies suggest that age negatively affects sexual desire, it is not considered a critical factor until age 70 and over (DeLamater & Sill, 2005; Hillman, 2008), and many older adults tend to maintain levels of sexual activity they established earlier in life (Walz, 2002). Moreover, Loe (2012) found that even the very old (aged 85+) enjoy intimacy and achieve both familiar and new forms of pleasure and sensuality.

“The role of sexuality for older adults is gradually getting more attention and becoming more socially acceptable than in the past (Bouman, Arcelus, & Benbow, 2006; Jung & Schill, 2004). Many studies have documented the importance and health benefits of sexuality and intimate relationships in later life (Bonifazi, 2000; DeLamater & Sill, 2005; Gott & Hinchliff, 2003; Lindau et al., 2007; Nicolosi et al., 2004), and some have shown that sex is often associated with a sense of vitality as well as feeling young and healthy (Loe, 2006).

"Research has also shown that subjective sexual well-being contributes to happiness in older adulthood (Laumann et al., 2006).

"Nevertheless, studies of sexuality in later life are still rather scarce (Carpenter, Nathanson, & Kim, 2009; DeLamater & Moorman, 2007; Foster et al., 2012). Moreover, they tend to adopt a biomedical perspective, ignoring the importance of psychological and social influences on sexuality (Carpenter, 2010; DeLamater & Sill, 2005; Hillman, 2008). The fact of the matter is that  very limited research attention has been given to seniors’ satisfaction with various physical and emotional aspects of their sex lives (Carpenter et al., 2009).”

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) reports it plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision, creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the U.S. For more information, visit http://www.aabgu.org.

>> (Free download of study is available.)


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