A report published in the Journal of Medical Ethics regarding the ability of adults living in senior care communities to engage in intimate relationships has forced nursing home providers to talk about a subject many rather would not: senior sex.
But the industry shouldn’t be so prudish, writes the head of NYU’s Langone Medical Center’s Division of Medical Ethics in an MSNBC piece, going on to suggest that nursing homes should be “at least as tolerant as a prison” in regards to allowing some sort of conjugal visits.
When it comes to the elderly, almost no one wants to talk about sex. This is especially true when nursing home and residential care are involved.
Nursing homes are simply not set up to permit romance. Privacy is at a premium and few room doors lock. Most rooms are double-occupancy with single beds. And nursing home staff don’t typically encourage romance and sex. It’s one less thing for nursing home owners and administrators to worry about.
We’re so prudish about the elderly and intimate relationships that we don’t even broach the topic when a loved one is heading to a home. We consider freedom and autonomy when debating who will have the right to pull the feeding tube or turn off the dialysis machine if Mom or Dad can’t communicate, but we do nothing to ensure their right to enjoy themselves in an area of life that matters a great deal to them.
Sex may not be for every nursing home resident, but it is surely for some. That’s autonomy worth talking about.
A nursing home ought be at least as tolerant as a prison. Some prisons permit conjugal visits. Shouldn’t we expect the same of nursing homes? If you care about your parents’ and grandparents’ dignity, sex ought to be a topic of conversation regarding the nursing home if that’s where they’re headed or where they now live.
Written by Alyssa Gerace