Sexuality and aged women in nursing homes Academic Article uri icon


  • Despite all evidence that sexuality in all its forms is essential to health and identity, society continues to make the aged sexually invisible; some aged people continue to suffer guilt for having sexual feelings or acting sexually, and many aged people internalize the misconception that they are asexual. Aged women, in the main, have had their sexuality defined as being dependent on males and youthful beauty. Pfeiffer, cited in Reinzo, points out that as we age "sexual needs may not only be continuing but actually heightened due to losses in other areas of life." Elderly women ache for closeness, touch, and intimacy, but may be afraid to reach out to other women in this way. They have often lost control over much of their lives, and the only pleasure available to them may be self-pleasuring and fantasy, but guilt, lack of privacy, and fear of being "caught" remove this option. Their self-image and self-esteem are diminished. Women reacting to a definition imposed on them forfeit the pleasures of wholeness. The solution will be found when they assert their rights as individuals and claim their bodies as their own. Before elderly women can feel and be treated as fully human, it must be recognized that to be fully human is to be fully sexual, whatever our age. Gerontologic nurses who hold ageist views of elderly women's sexuality are not providing holistic care. It is not possible to provide care that aims at maximizing potential, independence, and control, while denying or ridiculing a "core" aspect of identity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

publication date

  • November 1992