Age-related stereotypes and taboos surrounding older people’s sex lives are harming their health and well-being, according to new reseaerch.
The study found people aged 65 and over struggle with social stigmas attached to discussing what goes on between the sheets – preventing them from getting the support they need.
Sex, intimacy and relationships were highlighted as important factors in the overall health and well-being of people nearing the age of retirement and beyond.
But many were found to experience barriers when talking about such issues with their partners, friends and health professionals.
Study lead author Dr Sharron Hinchliff, of Sheffield University, said: “We know that many older adults enjoy sex and intimacy, and both are important factors in their quality of life.
“However, our global research has found that they often face barriers when it comes to talking about this with partners, friends and healthcare professionals.
“Relationships are central to human life.
“One of the most important relationships we have is that with our intimate other but our findings show that stereotypes about ageing can interfere with older people’s sexual expression and enjoyment.
“We’ve also found that these stereotypes and a lack of awareness are preventing older people from receiving help for a sexual concern.”
The study was based on a series of studies conducted by Dr Hinchliff over the past 17 years which looked at the intimate and sexual relationships of people aged 65 and above in the UK, Australia and Europe.
Her research includes projects on healthy sexual ageing, midlife, menopause and sexuality and successful ageing and changes in sexual interest and enjoyment among older European men and women.
In her research, Dr Hinchcliff also found age-related stereotypes to prevent older people from seeking and receiving the appropriate care for their sexual concerns.
To challenge such taboos and raise awareness of the importance of sex and intimate relationships to older people, Dr Hinchliff is collaborating with the renowned Sheffield artist Pete McKee, known for his distinctive style and evocative images.
A series of artworks will be unveiled in an exhibition that is part of the University’s Festival of the Mind – a ten-day festival showcasing some of the latest pioneering research from the University of Sheffield which will be on display throughout the city.
Pete McKee’s iconic style has led to his growing international fan base and he has collaborated with the likes of Noel Gallagher, Rega, XFM, Arctic Monkeys and Disney.
He said: “I was shocked to hear some of the stories Sharron had found while doing her research.
“I would hate to think that anyone would feel discriminated against for a health problem and that this might affect people’s relationships, so I was delighted to be asked to take part in this project.
“Hopefully, the work we have created will get people talking more and maybe with a sense of humour about it too.”
The exhibition launches tomorrow (Thur) and is due to run until the end of the month.