Everyone needs some moments of privacy, but not everyone is given them. At a certain age and with deteriorating health it is difficult to live alone, yet the wish for some intimacy does not go away. A new research from the Georgia State University showed that people, living in assisted-living facilities face challenges related to sexual freedom, because of the staff working there.
In simple terms, workers of assisted-living facilities are viewed as a surveillance system by the residents of such places, which means that they cannot fully enjoy the freedom, which is promised by these facilities. It is a big problem, because a million people live in assisted-living homes in USA alone. As people are expected to live longer and longer in the future, the number of the residents of assisted-living facilities is going to grow, meaning that the problem is going to worsen as well. While these homes offer consumer choice, autonomy, privacy and control, they fail to provide the needed sense of privacy and intimacy.
Contrary to popular belief, old people are interested in sexual relationships. Elisabeth Burgess, the author of the study, believe that there is a problem with policies in such assisted-living facilities. She said: “if you have a policy, you can say to the family when someone moves in, here are our policies and this is how issues are dealt with. In the absence of a policy, it becomes a case-by-case situation, and you don’t have consistency in terms of what you do”.
Researchers collected data from six different assisted-living homes. They found that while staff does approve the right to sexuality, it usually creates an atmosphere of surveillance. Staff members often said that they feel responsible for the health and safety of the residents, which is why they often try keeping them away from each other. Furthermore, families usually are overprotective and uncomfortable with new relationships of their parents and grandparents. Finally, the possibility of dementia or cognitive impairment made staff even more protective.
Love is for everyone and everyone wants it. Therefore, this research should be continued in order to present the staff of assisted-living facilities with guidelines of how to help older people without being too intrusive.