The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision on July 24, 2017 rejecting a ruling of a Portuguese court based on “the assumption that sexuality is not as important for a 50-year old woman and mother of two children as for someone of a younger age” (majority ruling as quoted by Sewell Chan in The New York Times on July 25, 2017).
Ample evidence from epidemiologic studies — for example, in America, in the Netherlands, in Sweden — shows that sexual relationships remain important to men and to women across the lifespan and easily adapt to changes associated with aging. This recognition has gained acceptance in modern culture and is reflected in initiatives as varied as the creation of a protected space for older couples at the Hebrew Home for the Elderly in Riverdale who form sexual relationships and the convening of an illustrious panel of international scientists (an endocrinologist, a psychologist, a gynecologist and a urologist) who declared that “frequent sexual activity can be prescribed as a medicine in order to improve both general and sexual health of individuals and of the couples.” Note that “sex” is not necessarily limited to intercourse. In research into the lives of older adults, the definition of “sexual behavior” includes “physical tenderness” and can include masturbation.
Here are some of the documented benefits of sexual behavior between two people who have a relationship, although not necessarily a married one, later in life, assuming that they are consenting and that health risks are not present:
At the level of chemistry, for both men and women:
At the level of behavior:
At the level of emotion:
At the level of cognition:
At the interpersonal level:
At the cultural level:
Finally, at a spiritual level:
As the European Court of Human Rights affirmed, sexual behavior in people 50 and older has an important role to play in quality of life, ”physical and psychological relevance for the self-fulfillment [of women]” as well as promoting the welfare of men. The court decision was a wise one, providing institutional support for one of our most basic drives and greatest interpersonal needs.
Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower