How do older people discuss their own sexuality? a systematic review of qualitative research studies

Gerwitz-Meydan, Ateret and Hafford-Letchfield, Trish and Ayalon, Liat and Benyamini, Yael and Biermann, Violetta and Coffey, Alice and Jackson, Jeanne and Phelan, Amanda and Voß, Peggy and Geiger Zeman, Marija and Zeman, Zdenko (2018) How do older people discuss their own sexuality? a systematic review of qualitative research studies. Culture, Health and Sexuality, 21 (3). pp. 293-308. ISSN 1369-1058

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    Abstract

    This study captured older people’s attitudes and concerns about sex and sexuality in later life by synthesising qualitative research published on this issue. The systematic review was conducted between November 2015 and June 2016 based on a pre-determined protocol. Key words were used to ensure a precise search strategy. Empirically based, qualitative literature from 18 databases was found. Twenty studies met the inclusion criteria. Thomas and Harden’s thematic synthesis was used to generate ‘analytical themes’ which summarise this body of literature. Three main themes were identified: (a) social legitimacy for sexuality in later life; (b) health, not age, is what truly impacts sexuality, and (c) the hegemony of penetrative sex. The themes illustrate the complex and delicate relation between ageing and sexuality. Older adults facing health issues that affect sexual function adopt broader definitions of sexuality and sexual activity.