Title

Creating a Sexual Health Forum for Seniors: Preliminary Stages

Proposal Focus

Practice

Abstract

Sexual expression is a natural act that occurs across the life course, unrestricted by age or physical location. Regardless if a person is 75 and residing in an assisted living facility, sex is a facet of life. Although sexual activity may slow as individuals age, interest in sex does not (Langer, 2009). Older adults maintain healthy sexual desires, yet face unique challenges when it comes to sexual expression and sexual health, which can be further complicated within the margins of a community living facility (i.e., assisted living, residential care, and nursing homes). Aside from the physiological changes that occur in mid-to-late life (e.g., menopause, erectile dysfunction), the older adult population faces growing rates of sexually transmitted infections (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017), particularly in community living facilities (Warso, 2015). Sexual assault and abuse is another issue facing community living facilities, as well as ambiguous or nonexistent policies that support and protect the rights of older persons to express themselves in a sexual manner (Connoll et al, 2012). Mystification surrounding sex in later life further compounds these issues. Moreover, a plethora of misinformation underscores societal taboos and myths surrounding sexuality and its prevalence in later life, the physical and cognitive changes that occur in later life, and the attitudes and biases (of care workers and residents) involving sexual expression of older adults residing in community living facilities. A current review of the research points to more education needed that incorporates a lifespan approach and attends to older adults in community living facilities (Langer, 2009; Villar, Fabà, Serrat, & Celdrán, 2015). Creating an environment that supports open discussion of safer sex practices, as well as encouragement (and normalization) of healthy sexual expression, can lead to an improvement in the overall wellbeing of residents living at these facilities (Syme, 2017).

The current project takes a look at the preliminary stages of developing a sexual health forum for seniors residing in an assisted living facility in northern Louisiana. This project was undertaken by an undergraduate sexual health research team comprised of students majoring in Family and Child Studies or Psychology, and/or minoring in Gerontology. The presentation will detail strategies for creating a forum for seniors, highlighting successes and challenges in navigating limited research on sexuality in late life and program development targeting older adults, as well as community standards surrounding sexual health and expression. Additionally, this presentation will offer reflexive activities for educators and practitioners addressing sexual health in aging populations, particularly in residential community living facilities.

Keywords

sexual health, older adults, community programming

Location

Tiger I

Start Date

9-3-2018 11:30 AM

End Date

9-3-2018 12:30 PM

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Mar 9th, 11:30 AM Mar 9th, 12:30 PM

Creating a Sexual Health Forum for Seniors: Preliminary Stages

Tiger I

Sexual expression is a natural act that occurs across the life course, unrestricted by age or physical location. Regardless if a person is 75 and residing in an assisted living facility, sex is a facet of life. Although sexual activity may slow as individuals age, interest in sex does not (Langer, 2009). Older adults maintain healthy sexual desires, yet face unique challenges when it comes to sexual expression and sexual health, which can be further complicated within the margins of a community living facility (i.e., assisted living, residential care, and nursing homes). Aside from the physiological changes that occur in mid-to-late life (e.g., menopause, erectile dysfunction), the older adult population faces growing rates of sexually transmitted infections (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017), particularly in community living facilities (Warso, 2015). Sexual assault and abuse is another issue facing community living facilities, as well as ambiguous or nonexistent policies that support and protect the rights of older persons to express themselves in a sexual manner (Connoll et al, 2012). Mystification surrounding sex in later life further compounds these issues. Moreover, a plethora of misinformation underscores societal taboos and myths surrounding sexuality and its prevalence in later life, the physical and cognitive changes that occur in later life, and the attitudes and biases (of care workers and residents) involving sexual expression of older adults residing in community living facilities. A current review of the research points to more education needed that incorporates a lifespan approach and attends to older adults in community living facilities (Langer, 2009; Villar, Fabà, Serrat, & Celdrán, 2015). Creating an environment that supports open discussion of safer sex practices, as well as encouragement (and normalization) of healthy sexual expression, can lead to an improvement in the overall wellbeing of residents living at these facilities (Syme, 2017).

The current project takes a look at the preliminary stages of developing a sexual health forum for seniors residing in an assisted living facility in northern Louisiana. This project was undertaken by an undergraduate sexual health research team comprised of students majoring in Family and Child Studies or Psychology, and/or minoring in Gerontology. The presentation will detail strategies for creating a forum for seniors, highlighting successes and challenges in navigating limited research on sexuality in late life and program development targeting older adults, as well as community standards surrounding sexual health and expression. Additionally, this presentation will offer reflexive activities for educators and practitioners addressing sexual health in aging populations, particularly in residential community living facilities.