I’ve been thinking about the illustrious Peggy Brick recently, and her amazing and groundbreaking work with older adults and sexuality. So this week we are delving into Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter. This manual, written in 2009, includes 30 sex ed lesson plans for older adults. I’ve pulled a few lesson plans from this manual into other weeks, but I want to give it the full attention it so rightly deserves this week. We begin with the first lesson plan in the manual:
SEXUALITY IN MID & LATER LIFE
An Introductory Lesson
- Identify the wide range of attitudes and feelings regarding sexuality among older adults.
- Discuss their own attitudes and feelings about sex in mid and later life.
- Examine the concept of sexual scripts and the importance of re-evaluating one’s script as one ages.
- Identify some basic facts concerning sexuality and aging.
This lesson introduces two important concepts about sexuality and aging that are basic to this manual. First, older adults need to examine and possibly change the “sexual scripts” they have learned from childhood about how to think and behave as sexual people. Many of these scripts are not relevant for older adults. Second, sex is more than intercourse. Especially in the later years, people need to explore the possibilities of non-penetrative sex, or “outercourse.”
I come from a family history of acceptance of sex in later life. My great-grandmother found her last lover when she was 103 and he was 101. They were not together long before my great-grandmother passed away, but I hear it was a very tender relationship. And given my knowledge of my great-grandmother, I have no doubt that it was sexual.
Included in this lesson plan is a series of quotes from older adults who were asked to write about aging and sexuality. The one that rings true to me is this one:
“A young woman asked a 70-year-old woman how long the sex drive lasted. The older one replied, ‘I don’t know; ask me in twenty years.’” – Woman, age 75
But this is only one perspective around sexuality for older adults. There are others that are not so encouraging of what is experienced as time rolls onward:
“I am neither interested in nor concerned about ‘sex over 65.’” – Woman, age 69
As people get older and move into the category of older adult, it is critical that they consider all of their preconceived notions of what it means, what it feels like, what it is to be an older adult. Sexuality may be merely one of these areas of internal exploration – but it is a critical one. This lesson plan introduces the subject matter in a way that is accessible rather than off-putting. It draws the audience into conversation and consideration with thoughtful and engaging information and critical thinking prompts.