Some time ago, I gave a lecture about the sexuality of older people, and one of the students told this story. I’m telling it here because it’s very noticeable and very sad.
The student worked at a nursing home. One day she was checking in on one of the older ladies. She knocked on the door as she used to, but there was no answer. She heard strange sounds from the room and was afraid that the resident was sick so she walked in. Then she noticed that the woman was masturbating, so she left silently and closed the door. On the door she put a note where she wrote: Don’t disturb, the resident is spending a good time with herself.
There were some of her colleagues who reacted very strongly.
”How disgusting, old sow!” That kind of talk.
No one considered that there is no expiration date for the ability and the desire to enjoy sex.
And it got worse …
A few days later, the woman was not found in her room in the morning. She had become very good friends with one of the old men, and the staff thought she might be visiting him. They knocked on his door – and there she was. They lay in his bed together: He was a big man, but she was a little lady so there was room enough for both of them. They lay close and held each other and seemed to be having a wonderful moment together.
In the middle of the floor in the man’s room stood her walker. The diaper she had taken off before getting into bed with him hung on the handlebars.
Again, some of the staff became very upset. One of the younger men in particular was extremely annoyed. Something had to be done! That kind of mess was intolerable! The man had to get a lock on his door. And the old lady had to be locked in, so she didn’t “stray”.
Nobody seemed to understand the two old people. That love, intimacy and closeness have no age. That it’s a basic human need to feel an other person close to you, a need that can be very difficult to meet for lonely old people. Instead of being happy that the two old found warmth and joy together, they condemned their actions based on old-fashioned moral principles basically saying that old people and especially women should not have sex. We may think we live in a sexually liberated culture, but sex is still connected to youth, fertility, and producing babies.
That is a huge clash between what we believe and what we actually do. How often do people actually have sex to have children?
I was so sad when I heard this story. For it tells such a lot about our narrow-minded view of old people (women in particular), about sex, and the meaning of it. I have written more about it in my book Sex after 50.