a publication of the sexuality and aging consortium at widener university

Where is the love?

By Robin Dessel, LMSW, Consortium Advisory Board Member

Robin DesselWhere is the love? If I’m not mistaken, it should be anywhere and everywhere…
Whether you are a resident in a nursing home, a tenant in assisted living, or older adult in the community, sexual and intimacy rights should carry with you regardless of age, place of residence, sexual preference or third party decision-making.  However, theory and practice are often light years apart, as in the case of older adult sexuality and nursing homes.
Does sex have a place in the nursing home?  If the question was asked of the iPhone’s Siri, her likely response would be “I do not understand your question – would you like me to search the web for an answer?”  In truth, the question may leave the masses needing to search for an answer.  Well, at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale we not only understand the question, but have championed the sexual rights of all living under our roof since 1995.
Over nearly two decades, the Hebrew Home has authored the nation’s first sexual rights policy for older adults in residential health care settings, and produced an educational video to aid staff in treating the subject matter with respect and objectivity.  One might logically wonder how and why this came to be.  The answer, quite simply, is that the Home believes there is still life to be lived, pleasure to be had, and romance to be found.
If and when the time comes, both as the Hebrew Home’s Sexual Rights Educator and a “boomer-ette”, I will expect more of health care than pills and positioning.  As is our motto, I will expect to “live well.”  I am fairly certain that if we do not take the first step in opening the door to sexuality, that door will be blown from its hinges when baby boomers enter the scene.
Older adult sexuality has left the gate.  Leadership and clinicians alike should champion rather than curtail the cause.  We need to listen harder and better, in hearing and honoring the sexual choices of older adults.  And by the way, one day this will be us.

Robin Dessel, LMSW, is the Director of Memory Care and the Sexual Rights Educator for The Hebrew Home at Riverdale. Email Robin.



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