On the other end are the frisky, swinging singles who are at risk of STDs.
Because of these and other changes, an increasing number of older adults are choosing intermediate care settings, such as assisted living, which is the fastest-growing segment of long-term care for older adults.
Assisted living differs from skilled nursing facilities because they are intended to provide minimal to moderate levels of help with everyday tasks in a homelike environment that emphasizes choice and control for the residents.
We wanted to know more about opportunities for and barriers to sexual expression in this emerging environment.
In order to do this, we conducted interviews and focus groups with staff and administrators in six assisted living facilities in a large southeastern city. Living status, health concerns, desire and other factors vary widely across this spectrum.
Multiple social and health barriers can limit opportunities to pursue sexual relationships.
For example, limited access to healthy partners because of living arrangements and imbalanced sex ratio diminishes opportunities as we age.
Thus residents, even in the privacy of their rooms, had limited opportunity to engage in sexual behavior.
Another way that staff controlled behavior was more overt and purposeful.
For example, staff needing access to resident rooms to provide housekeeping or care would frequently engage in what we term “the knock and walk,” whereby staff would give a cursory knock and then enter the room without waiting for a response.
This act sometimes resulted in staff walking in on residents in the middle of a different act in what should have been a private space.
We found that in public spaces, such as dining and activity rooms, staff felt they had a responsibility to maintain decorum and keep the peace.