On Friday 6th February 2015 the Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA), Manchester Metropolitan University, Age UK and the Association for Education and Ageing hosted a seminar on Older people and sexual wellbeing: Research, practice and educational issues.
I was fortunate to attend; I was one of the invited speakers and my presentation Sexual health and well-being in middle and late adulthood: Current knowledge and future directions explored some of the stereotypes older people can experience in relation to their sexuality, and how these and other factors can influence the health care they receive.
One of the main points I made was that it is imperative that we do what we can to put ageing and sexual health and wellbeing on the agenda.
I focused largely on the barriers and facilitators to seeking and receiving help for sexual concerns in middle and late adulthood, including those experienced by older people themselves (e.g. general embarrassment, internalisation of the asexual stereotype) and those experienced by health professionals (e.g. fear of causing offence, lack of knowledge of sexual issues affecting older people).
It followed presentations by Dr Dave Lee and Professor Josie Tetley, who talked about some of the findings from the sexual component of the current England Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Dave spoke about the statistical relationship between health status and sexual well-being, while Josie focused on the qualitative aspects – what older people had to say about their sexual well-being.
It was great to be part of this event which was attended by academics, researchers, care providers, older people, local government, NHS and the private sector. Informal feedback was positive, and the high turn-out and questions asked showed there was a lot of interest in this topic. The consensus: sexual wellbeing is already on the agenda of some academics and health practitioners, but it should be on the agenda of many others.