Why do we tend to think that as people get older, they lose interest in sex? And why do we think that it won’t happen to us?
Over the hills, under the covers? is an interactive exhibition held at the Millennium Gallery as part of Festival of the Mind 2023. Designed in collaboration with Joi Polloi, the exhibition aimed to raise awareness of the obstacles older adults can face when it comes to their sexual health and wellbeing needs.
We know from the large evidence base that intimacy and sexual activity are important components of quality of life for older adults. And that there are benefits to health and wellbeing from sex and intimacy such as boost to self-esteem, better sleep quality, higher relationship satisfaction, and lower levels of depression.
But we also know that ageism, at an individual and structural level, interferes with sexual happiness. The tendency to view older age as a sexless time of life is difficult to shift despite the numerous messages that counter this assumption.
Ageism manifests in various ways: through services not being set up to support older adults; practitioners not being trained; older adults excluded from sexual health campaigns; and the many messages within society that maintain the image of older age as a time of decline, dependency, and deterioration.
Ageism in the sexual health and wellbeing arena is alive and well, even if it’s unintentional. It’s time we put an end to it.
The exhibition drew attention to the Sexual Rights Charter for Older Adults we launched in 2022. The Charter supports open and honest conversations about this topic and helps to create an inclusive society.
Although the physical exhibition has ended, you can watch the digital version on the University of Sheffield Player. And if you’re wondering, the amazing artwork was done by Daisy M Illustration.
With huge thanks to Festival of the Mind and the Partnerships and Regional Engagement team
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