Multiple studies have discovered a positive association between sex in later life and increased physical and mental health. Sexuality and aging is often approached from a deficit model, presenting changes in sexual function. However, qualitative research allows for a more nuanced look at how older adults perceive their sexuality. Using convenience sampling, 61 individuals, aged 50 − 88, were recruited to participate in nine focus groups. Focus groups were held in an urban metro area in the midwestern United States. Interviewers used a semi-structured interview to gather information about sex and aging. Analysis consisted of thematic analysis at an individual level, and interactional level. Themes identified include: 1. Body changes, adaptive sexuality, and seeking pleasure through masturbation; 2. Transitions in relationships and lack of available partners; 3. Changing definitions and values about sexuality over the lifespan; 4. Moderating effects of demographics and experiences (e.g., gender, culture, sexual orientation, generation/cohort, trauma, sex education). Results indicate that older adults are invested in their sex lives and are mindful about adapting and shifting both their perspectives and their actual behaviors. These changes were identified by participants as challenges, but also as contributing to sexual wisdom.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank donors Duane Rost, June LaValleur, and the Minnesota Medical Foundation, the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health and the Program in Human Sexuality and Mike Miner for research support and Heidi Fall for meticulous administrative support. In addition, we thank Meena Natarajan and Dipankar Mukherjee of Pangea World Theater for their support. A special thanks to all the individuals who discussed their personal sexual lives with us.
© 2020 College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.
- focus groups