Resident and Family Member Perspectives on Sexual Expression in Continuing Care

Brassolotto, J., Howard, L., & Manduca-Barone, A. (2020). “If you do not find the world tasty and sexy, you are out of touch with the most important things in life”: Resident and family member perspectives on sexual expression in continuing care. Journal of Aging Studies, 53, 100849.

“If you do not find the world tasty and sexy, you are out of touch with the most important things in life”. – Resident

Over the past three decades, there has been growing attention to sexual expression in continuing care homes. However, resident perspectives continue to be underrepresented, particularly in the Canadian context. In this article, we share findings from a qualitative, exploratory study looking at the experiences of residents and family members in Alberta, Canada. We asked participants about how they define sexual expression, its place in continuing care, their experiences with thoughts about sexual expression in care homes, and suggestions for how to improve this aspect of resident life.

Key findings:
1) Diverse experiences of sexual expression in continuing care homes
2) Resident autonomy and the involvement of others
3) Privacy matters
4) Communication dynamics
5) Distinguishing between appropriate and inappropriate expressions

Sexuality is not something that disappears when people move into continuing care. Although, sexual expression may take on new forms over the life course, it continues to be a fundamental part of human life and flourishing for many residents. However, staff are not well prepared to anticipate or respond to resident sexual expression, nor are care home environments designed to accommodate opportunities for intimacy. Our research demonstrates how residents persist in their endeavors to express themselves as sexual beings in the face of interpersonal and structural challenges that come with living in a care home.