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The Elderly and Sexual Perception

Human sexuality describes how individuals experience and express themselves as sexual beings. Numerous studies and scholarly writings indicate that gender plays an important role in developing the sexuality of people. Individual personalities are determined by their sexuality according to their gender. Sexuality is considered a taboo subject, especially in the case of older adults. The media usually identifies sexuality with the youth generation and in rare cases has it been pertained to the elderly. It considers the older people as sexually unattractive (Ginsberg, 2005). It is because of the problems that surround sexuality in the elderly characterized by performance problems, physical or mental limitations, abstinence, lack of energy for sexual relations, and the most common, erectile dysfunction. In discussing sexuality in terms of the elderly, the media often uses a comic form to reduce the tension. This paper will dwell upon a media cartoon to explain the issues surrounding sexuality and the elderly and ascertain the claim that gender influences the sexuality of individuals.

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The topic of sexuality and the elderly is uncomfortable hence, the use of humor is appropriate. Humorous contexts are used to exaggerate and hyperbolize stereotypes associated with sexuality in older adults. The humor helps not to take the matter seriously; it allows comfortability while discussing the topic and reduces the taboo because no one challenges the already held beliefs (Skultety, 2007). It is evident in the relations of men and women present in advertising and films. There is a lack of representation of older women as the main concern is directed to anti-aging products to help them improve their sexuality. It is caused by the media’s negative perception of sexuality in older adults creating perception of body image that is making older people lose power and become invisible. There are various myths by stereotypes that surround the topic of sexuality in older adults. It is believed that elderly people are physically incapable of performing sexual behaviors (Salzman, 2006). It is a result of some diseases and physical conditions that occur in old age. However, it does not happen to everyone because sexual ability differs from one individual to another.

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The media also argues that the elderly disregard interest in sex. It is believed that with old age comes less sex drive and interest in sexual activity. Physicians dispute this fact by stating that the overall interest in sexual activity may decline for the elderly but not disappear. A research on sexual behavior in 60-year-old adults conducted by Ginsberg, Pomerantz, & Kramer-Feeley (2005) resulted in a majority of older adults confessing their wishes to experience varying degrees of sexual intimacy on a regular to semi-regular basis. In addition, the perception of sexuality in older adults is attributed to the myth that elderly believe they are safe from contracting sexually transmitted diseases or AIDS. The concept is false because any individual whether young or old can contract these diseases. There are many issues surrounding sexuality and the elderly, most of which are based on myths.

In his cartoons, Randy Glasbergen (n.d.) tries to explain the concept of sexuality and the elderly. The message is that when individuals get older they lose the sex drive they once had when younger. Sex becomes a task to them instead of fun, love, and passionate perspective of sex. Statistically, one out of three women aged 50 takes up the role as seen from the cartoon. Older adults lose their wild imagination due to the newly acquired conservative nature. Their sexuality is no longer a priority as compared to their duties and responsibilities. It is important to educate the older adults on the importance of having a healthy sex life. It improves the emotional and physical health of the individuals. Sexuality in older women reduces due to the decrease in estrogen levels, while older men experience reduced testosterone. However, the situation can be mitigated through medical assistance.

Physiological aspects refer to the individual’s healthy and normal functioning. The normal functioning of individuals changes due to age, which, in turn, affects the sexuality. The body changes for both males and females making them disinterested in sex. The decline in hormones among other factors reduces the sex drive and attractiveness of the other partner (Rheaume, 2008). Psychological aspects relate to the mental ability of the individual. It refers to the mind and its ability to function normally concerning awareness, motivation, and feelings. Elderly people suffer from mental disorders caused by old age, therefore, their sex drive lowers. The unstable mental state of the male or female affects the sexuality as indicated in the cartoon. Lastly, the social aspect plays a vital role in the relationship between people in a given society. The manner in which they interact with one another and the culture of the society is also the social aspect. The society has depicted sexuality in older adults as a taboo, something not to be discussed or joked with because it affects the elderly. To the society, sexuality is for the young and energetic individuals with a right to have sex. The older adults have embraced the remarks of the society and accepted the idea that the elderly have no right to sex.

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In conclusion, it is evident that the media portrays sexuality in older adults as a taboo with restrictions to it. The myths and stereotypes about sexuality in older adults should be discarded because it is a normal thing even to the elderly. The most important thing to note is that the ways in which sexual relations are shown change with individuals’ age. However, age should not be a hindrance to experiencing sexuality as it is an integral part of the human life.

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