Women and Sexuality: Throughout History, Throughout Lives
Jen, Sarah Rebecca
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As the American population continues to age rapidly, it will be increasingly important to identify the unique needs, strengths, and resiliencies of rapidly diversifying elders. Little research explores the intersections of aging and sexuality or intimate relationships, although the presence of an intimate partner remains a significant protective factor for measures of health and well-being among older adults. This qualitative study explores through in-depth interviews the perceived effects of gender, aging, and current living situation on older women's experiences of sexuality. Interview questions were organized and results are reported in four categories: (a) current living situation, (b) past and current experiences of sexuality and intimacy, (c) perceptions of and attitudes toward sexuality and gender, and (d) reflections and recommendations for researchers. The implications for social work practice and research include the need for: normalization of sexual experiences, availability of empowering information about sexuality, and an awareness of widely varying sexual experiences. There is also potential for further exploration of dynamical systems theory as an appropriate model of inquiry for approaching women's experiences around sexuality and intimate relationships over time.