A study which examines sexuality and intimacy for adults aged 50 and above is currently being conducted by the Institute for Health and Ageing.
The Older Adult Sexuality and Intimacy Study (or “The OASIS”) is a series of three projects being run by PhD student Ashley Macleod, and recruitment for Study 1 is currently open.
Research indicates that sexuality is experienced differently by adults over 50 than it is during the reproductive years, but little has been done to look at this difference in more depth. Sexuality is clearly still important to many older adults, and continues to be an important factor in quality of life regardless of age. Currently, there is little agreement not only in how later-life sexuality is defined, but also in terms of what factors are associated with sexuality as people age. The current ‘quantity over quality’ functional model of sexuality has little relevance for older adults, and this gap has had wide-reaching impacts within the community and within medical services, policy and care provision.
In order to better understand how sexuality fits into the ageing lifestyle it is important to be able to accurately define what sexuality means to people over 50 in the real world. The first in a series of three research studies is now underway in which Australian men and women aged 50 and above are being asked to discuss what sexuality and intimacy means to them, and its place in their lives. This information will feed into the development of a much needed definition for later-life sexuality and a measurement scale that will be designed with a positive focus on the sexuality of adults aged 50 and above. Developing this scale through accessing the voice of the population in question will not only help to better understand later-life sexuality, but will have wide reaching impacts into the sexuality and ageing research space and in the community.
This research is important as presently there is no consistent definition on what later-life sexuality is, or how to measure it. Current measures used by researchers, clinicians, medical professionals and more are based on measures of sexuality that were designed for younger populations and that emphasise erection quality and frequency of intercourse, or are designed to measure sexual dysfunction. There is currently nothing that looks at the sexuality of older adults who enjoy a healthy sex life.
The OASIS also gives older people a chance to have their voices heard in relation to sexuality and intimacy in a world that is most often focused on the sexuality of the young, and on reproduction and fertility.