The issues I am highlighting in this column today are talked about in whispers, if at all—romance, love and sex between elder seniors and among Alzheimer’s patients—that is, “Old Love” and “New Attachments.” Sexual attitudes of senior citizens has expanded as they live longer and better lives. The quality of the sex lives of senior citizens has improved as well. A total of 62% of women and 71% of men report being highly satisfied with their sex lives, as opposed to 41% of women and 58% of men in the 1970’s (K. Svahn, Ageless Living, p. 33). “A general sense of wellbeing, comfortable circumstances, good physical condition, and vibrant mental health all contribute to sexual satisfaction
My mother is 86 years old, she is in the early stages of dementia and lives in a seniors’ residence. The good news is that she keeps herself and her apartment tidy, goes down to the dining room for meals and takes a long walk every day. A visit to an off-leash dog park is her greatest pleasure. The bad news is that her desire to speak English has deteriorated, and she only communicates with me in Russian She understands and speaks English to my English-speaking friend who visits her from time to time. Up to this point, I, her only daughter, was coping well with the situation, visiting two or three times a week. But there is a new and disturbing problem. She has become infatuated with a gentleman who lives in an adjacent building. She watches for him, and is increasingly anxious when she does not see him often enough. He seems interested in her. They take walks to the dog park, hang out in the garden and sit close together on a bench. She is speaking English more often. I find their new relationship rather weird and disturbing. How do I deal with this “romance”?
– Love In The Time Of Dementia
Dear “Love In The Time Of Dementia”
Dear “Love in the Time of Dementia” This situation has been called “old love” and “new attachments” by the researchers and journalists. It is not uncommon. The New York Times states that these types of new attachments and the desire for intimacy persists even when dementia steals so much else. Nursing homes are being forced to confront an increase in sexual activity. Historically, love in older age has not been given much of a place in culture and your feelings of distaste and even fear are understandable. Your mother finds herself in a new world, gradually forgetting the past; and in this new world she has found a new friend. Her interest is all-consuming and probably very exciting for her. He is not “a dirty old man” and she is not an “erotic old witch”, old stereotypes which do not apply. I believe your feelings of discomfort will change as the “romance” develops. By getting to know the gentleman, your fears of harm coming to your mother will diminish. She will probably blossom with vitality and warmth as time goes by. You may even feel some relief from your sense of duty to her as her focus changes. For some perspective on “old love” I recommend the movie “Away from Her” which highlights love in the time of dementia.
I am a gentleman of 71 years old, retired professional, in good health, long-time divorced. I decided that enough time had passed, that life was short; so I told all my friends that I wanted to date again. Their reaction was less than enthusiastic but I persisted—I joined a gym and a ballroom dance class. Just when I thought that this was craziness, I met a woman at dance school and we immediately began to share small parts of our lives together. Slowly but surely, after much trepidation and hesitation, we have begun a romance and we are both interested in sex. But our initial sexual encounters have been disappointing. I suffer from erectile dysfunction. It is embarrassing and distressing to me (she is very understanding); I see the advertisements on television for ED. Am I too old to take these medications?
- Dysfunction Junction
Dear “Dysfunction Junction”
Did you know that half of all men over 40 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED)? It can happen to anyone. But it’s more prevalent with age and in men with certain health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure (Zoomer Magazine, Nov. 2015, p. 46). Your first step is going to your physician and discussing frankly your situation and your desire for sexual intimacy. He will check your medical record, so that side-effects from a new medication will be prevented or minimized. There are many choices—Viagra, Cialis and Daily Cialis. If one doesn’t work, another one might. The response rate varies from 60 to 90 percent. But where one drug fails, another may pass. How wonderful to have found a caring partner. Your ED may indeed become a concern of the past.
Good luck to both of you.