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J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2004 Mar-Apr;5(2 Suppl):S42-7.

Sexuality in the nursing home, part 1: attitudes and barriers to sexual expression.

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  • 1Medical Director, Geriatric Subacute Unit and Home Health Care, Geriatric Rehabilitation and Extended Care, Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Bay Pines, Florida, USA.


Sexuality is a basic human need that begins at birth and continues throughout life. The sexual needs of the elderly are similar to those of the young, but with variations in frequency, intensity, and mode of expression. Regardless of age, every individual has a need for love, intimacy, and companionship. Unfortunately, however, stereotypical thinking, ignorance, and prejudice dominate Western society's view on sexuality in the elderly. In a youth-oriented culture, sexuality is attributed to the young, healthy, and beautiful, and the myth that the elderly are asexual beings predominates. Consequently, the sexual needs of the elderly are frequently overlooked and ignored. Nowhere is this more emphatic than in the nursing home setting. This article explores barriers to sexual expression in the nursing home setting and discusses strategies to overcome them.

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