a publication of the sexuality and aging consortium at widener university

Sexuality and Intimacy: What’s Aging Got to Do With It?

By Anita P. Hoffer

Despite what the popular media might indicate, sexuality and intimacy play an active role in our lives as we age. There is an abundance of research, from the Journal of the American Medical Association to the Journal of Gerontological Nursing to the Wall Street Journal, showing sexual activity (whether partnered or solo) is good for your health, even in later years. Engaging in sex can relieve stress, improve sleep, burn calories, reduce certain forms of pain, ease depression, strengthen blood vessels and boost the immune system.

Defining the Indefinable
Sexuality is often linked directly to sexual acts or sexual orientation, but it is multi-faceted and has many definitions. Regardless of age, it is a core part of our identity, of how we live in our bodies, are attuned to our senses, revel in the pleasure of beautiful music, a stunning sunset, a loving touch or the smell of an exquisite flower. Sexuality includes body, mind and soul; it is omnipresent in everything we do.

Intimacy is how we share ourselves with others. This sharing may be sexual, or not. It may involve genital contact, or not. But at its most essential, it is about connecting with an “other,” and as such is an expression of the universal human wish for connection.

Deeply satisfying, rewarding friendships can be forged in middle and late life without necessarily involving conventionally defined “sexual behaviors and activities.” An encounter may be sexual but devoid of intimacy, or highly intimate but not at all sexual.

Read more here: Sexuality and Intimacy: What’s Aging Got to Do With It?

Reprinted with permission from Aging Today, a publication of the American Society on Aging.

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