Sex, sexuality and later life

Authored by: Linn Sandberg

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415631143
eBook ISBN: 9780203097090
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221033


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‘Sex after 60: the myth about sexual desire disappearing is untrue’. ‘Sex after 60 is the last sexual taboo’. ‘Sex after 60 still creates a fuss’. These are examples of headlines from contemporary mass media and advertising addressing sex and sexuality in later life (På ålderns höst February 2012, Dagens Nyheter 29 September 2010, 9 February 2009). In recent years there has been an increase in voices pointing to how sexuality is important throughout the entire life course, and that older people often wish to continue to be sexually active in later life. In mass media, advertising and popular culture as well as in scientific literature on ageing and sexuality, there are repeated assertions that sexuality continues to matter as we age and become old. Researchers often position their research on sexuality as a challenge to the stereotypes of non- or asexual later life (Scherrer 2009). The impetus to discuss the sex lives of older people can be understood as a discursive shift on later life sexuality; this shift is the focus of the chapter. Notions of ‘sexy seniors’, who are both willing and functioning, have partly replaced the stereotype of the ‘asexual oldie’. Yet, even though both old and new discourses influence how older men and women understand and experience their sexual selves, the question remains whether they accurately represent the many complex experiences of sex and sexuality among older men and women.

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