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Sexuality and the “Culture” of Aging in the United States

Sexuality and the “Culture” of Aging in the United States

Introduction/Rationale: This Educational Experience
will examine the prevailing attitudes toward aging and
sexuality in the United States. The main thesis is that
older Americans comprise a distinct sub-culture of the
United States population, and is subjected to many of
the biases, judgments, and prejudices that are common
to marginalized populations. Specifically, Western cultures,
such as the United States, have not seen society’s
elders as having sexual needs, wants, desires, and/or
interactions. The prevailing narrative of the impact of
aging on sexual functioning has been an inevitable process
of decline that can only impede one’s enjoyment
of sex. Presently, we understand that this is far from
the reality of many aging adults. Research and clinical
information will be presented allowing for a more
complete understanding of the role sex plays in the
lives of an aging population. The emphasis on the
“sexuality of youth” will be challenged from a developmental
and existential perspective.
Population/Settings: The presentation will focus on
the aging population (50 and over) in the United
Outcome/Discussion/Recommendations: Sexuality
remains important throughout the lifecycle. The perception
that aging represents a “disease” or a “defect”
that needs to be resisted must be challenged and contested.
The implications for sex therapy and sexual
medicine practitioners include the need to look beyond
our existing sexual scripts that glorify the sexuality of
youth while disparaging the sexuality of aging.
Citations and supporting literature:
Bouman, W.P. & Kleinplatz, P.J. (2016). Introduction: moving
towards understanding greater diversity and fluidity
of sexual expression of older people. In W.P. Bouman &
P.J. Kleinplatz (Eds.), Sexuality and Ageing (pp. 1–3.
Watter, D.N. (in press). Sexuality and aging: navigating the
challenges of aging bodies. In Y.M. Binik & K.S.K. Hall
(Eds.), Principles and practice of sex therapy, 6th Ed. New
York: Guildford Press.
Keywords: aging, death, sexuality
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None