Sex. It’s a controversial and awkward topic for many people to approach, even under “normal” circumstances. But sex and old people? Let’s face it, no one really likes to think that ‘old people’ have sex.
Yet the reality is that ‘old people’ are human like everyone else. It is human nature to desire intimacy, closeness, understanding, fun, and to have a partner who cares. “Despite a person’s age or circumstances, everyone is always seeking that,” says 100-year-old sex therapist, Shirley Zussman.
Sex in Nursing Homes
Recognizing that some residents have intimate relationships well into their 70s and 80s, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale now offers a happy hour, a senior prom and even a dating service. Of their 870 residents, there are around 40 are involved in intimate relationships and many others are ready and waiting for one to spark.
Back in 1995, after a nurse walked in on two senior residents having sex, the Hebrew Home implemented a formal “sexual expression” policy, becoming one of the nation’s first to do so. At the time, they surveyed other nursing homes in New York and beyond, only to find that majority of homes denied sexual relationships. When they raised the issue at an industry conference, the audience seemed in complete denial of the existence of sexual relationships within the senior population at nursing homes.
The In-House G-Date Dating Service
The Hebrew Home dating service is called G-Date, short for Grandparent Date, and it allows residents to sign up and be matched with potential partners. Social workers send off potential matches to the on-site cafe for their first meeting.
Naturally, it doesn’t always result in intimate relationships. But one additional benefit is that residents get to interact and develop friendships with people whom they may not have met otherwise.
Issues with Sex in Nursing Homes
Of course, the move that the Hebrew Home has so boldly taken raises questions for many, including:
- Consent – are all residents able to give consent and could there be some that may take advantage. Consent issues can be addressed by implementing a formal policy.
- Institutional objections – personal beliefs of management teams about what’s right and wrong.
- Family objections – adult children may feel it’s inappropriate, immoral or disloyal, and their objections may go even deeper where residents initiate intimate relationships with other married individuals.
- Liability – homes can be reluctant to allow sexual relationships for fear of liability cases arising.
Still, regardless of these issues, the fact of the matter remains: despite age and circumstance, individuals within homes will and want to engage in sexual relationships. Therefore, it makes sense that homes should explore the options and implement policies to support residents to live quality lives.
Wisdom from a 100 Year Old Practicing Sex Therapist
As Shirley Zussman, 100-year-old practicing sex therapist says: “Intimacy can help people feel good about themselves and fulfills the need that we all have to feel close to somebody.”
And, who said the oldies can’t have fun and act like adolescents? According to the nursing staff, there are things like jealousy, relationship gossip, attention seeking wars, and amorous behavior occurring that helps add a little spice back to life.
Sounds like fun to us!