A partnership of Manchester campaigners and researchers – including Edge Hill University’s Dr Paul Simpson – are urging health professionals change their attitudes about sexual activity in older people.
The Valentine’s Day campaign is developed by a Manchester based coalition of academic, public and voluntary sector organisations called the Sexual Health of Older People’ (SHOP) working group. The activity is delivered as part of Manchester’s World Health Organisation-recognised Age-Friendly City initiative, which aims to make the City a better place to grow older.
Dr Paul Simpson, a Senior Lecturer in Applied Health and Social Care, said: “Research shows that older people are often excluded from sexual citizenship, and can even find their sexuality mocked. Yet the reality, as shown in Government statistics, is that many older people continue to enjoy sex and intimacy and the health benefits they bring.
“That’s why we’re proud to be at the forefront of this pioneering initiative, which aims to increase recognition of older people as sexual, intimate beings, whose diverse needs are recognised and met by sexual health services.”
Christine Camacho, a Public Health Registrar at The University of Manchester who is leading the drive on Valentine’s Day, to challenge the negative stereotypes of sex and intimacy in later life, said:
“STI rates are rising the fastest in people aged 45-64. Sexual health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing, for people of all ages”.
The campaign will highlight the need to use protection, talk about how health services need to be appropriate for people of all ages, as well as tackling issues such as diversity, women’s health and emotional intimacy.
The campaign will launch a survey aimed at older people to gather information about their attitudes to sex and interactions with health care professionals on this topic. The campaign includes taglines developed by older Mancunians and videos of a Manchester resident talking about their experiences.
Dr Dave Lee, Reader in Epidemiology and Gerontology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing shows that 80% of people aged 75+ agree that satisfactory sexual relations are essential to the maintenance of a long-term relationship.
The sexual health of older people should not be overlooked by health care professionals in the broader context of maintaining well-being during ageing.”
Councillor Mary Watson, Lead Member for Age Friendly Manchester, Manchester City Council said, “Manchester City Council works hard to address the negative images and portrayal of ageing that older people tell us negatively impact on their confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. We want to work together to be ‘age proud’ about intimacy in later life.”
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said: “Sex continues to be important for many of us well into old age, but for some reason the whole topic remains taboo in some circles. Health professionals should be open about discussing sexual health with older people and certainly not immediately jump to the conclusion that sex is irrelevant once you pass a certain birthday.”