Attitudes of older persons, and their care-givers, towards human sexuality.
The literature reviewed reveals changing attitudes towards sexuality generally and towards sexuality and the elderly in particular. These changes are ' .... represented by a shift from religious organization of moral life to increasingly secular regulation embodied in the emergence of new medical, psychological and educational norms' (Weeks 1986,p.33). However, it seems that these changes have not necessarily affected provision of care for older persons in a positive way. This study focusses on attitudes of older women, housed in traditional large residential units, and attitudes of caregivers of the residents in such units, towards human sexuality. Data was obtained by means of the administration of the Sexual Attitude Scale (Hudson and Murphy, 1976) which is a summated rating scale. The attitudes of subjects toward self-determination in human sexuality in the context of the aging person's life are specifically considered. The major findings of the study were that residents attitudes towards human sexuality were generally extremely conservative. However, this clearly did not extend to a belief that sex was only for the young. Attitudes expressed by staff towards human sexuality were on the whole liberal and they agreed that sex was not only for the young. However, although caregivers support the idea that sexuality in the later years is important in theory, their actions do not bear this out. The findings have implications for the prevailing arrangements for caring in traditional large residential care units with respect to house rules, and education in human sexuality for residents, staff and relatives of the elderly.