Sexing In The Nursing Home

What will we do when we’re old? This isn’t regarding the passive things like playing video games and luxuriating in healing baths but the more intimate things: what will we be doing together? Will we be, um, fucking each other?

That’s one thing about getting old and settling into a nursing home: sexuality has been removed, your body desexualized and placed within a context where you are undesirable and, in so many words, told that you’re not allowed to have sex. You age in reverse, turning into poor Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes, taking out frustrations and desires on paper cutouts of flowers.

There is hope though: with the sexuality and openness of our generation, we’ll probably be allowed to fuck all we want in these nursing homes. It would be hard to take away sex from us. Thankfully, nursing homes are already rising to the occasion by encouraging sex amongst residents. In a wonderful little piece in yesterday’s New York Times, reporter Winnie Hu details nursing homes where “you get old, you don’t get cold.”

These homes represent a new wave of thinking in terms of elder care. They’re passively liberal in their handling of resident sex, abiding by a philosophy of acceptance. As the president and chief executive of RiverSpring Health—Daniel Reingold—told a nurse, if you walk in on residents having sex, “tiptoe out and close the door behind you.” What a remarkable concept. Reingold is the shining star in this story too, a leader in enabling this way of thinking.

Daniel Reingold […] said growing old was all about loss: vision, hearing, mobility, even friends. Why should intimacy have to go, too? “We don’t lose the pleasure that comes with touch,” he said. “If intimacy leads to a sexual relationship, then let’s deal with it as grown-ups.”

And that is a remarkable way of thinking: at a time in our lives, toward the end, when so much is abandoning us and being taken away from us, pleasure shouldn’t exeunt with it. We should embrace what we have left of our facilities, even in an elder care facility.

The best way of looking at it came from 67 year old resident Francine Aboyoun, who was awaiting a date through a home’s “G-Date”—Grandparent Date—program.

She said she remained hopeful that she would meet someone. While living at another nursing home, she met a man who would come to her room at night. Though they did not have sex, they kissed and lay together in her bed. “Wow, it felt like I was young again,” she said.

Can you imagine how wonderful that must be in that situation? To be comforted by intimacy, to be empowered and enlightened through a lifelong act that has brought pleasure? There’s some power there.

Sex in the nursing home, for older people, appears to be a new frontier in care. And who doesn’t want to stop having sex or being intimate with someone else? No one (except for maybe asexual persons).

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