Sex in aged-care facilities made headlines in the West Australian Newspaper this week. Well, not exactly, but the headline grabbed my attention.
Under the banner, ‘”Silver Fox” study in aged-care homes’, a journalist reported that a psychology student has chosen this as the focus of her Honours Thesis. There’s a whole lot wrong with the article, and I expect there will also be with the study if it continues along the lines reported
What’s wrong with the article?
I’ve obviously been reading all the wrong things, listening to the wrong conversations, because ‘silver fox’ made sense only in the context of the article. The term was new to me. The Urban Dictionary defines a silver fox as
An attractive older man. Generally, with gray (sic) hair and is often desired by younger women.
Later, I read that these men often attract younger women who chase them. I also discovered that there is no equivalent slang for an attractive older women, and perhaps that’s a good thing. But in this ageist society, perish the thought that an older woman could be sexually attractive!
The journalist writes about the ‘taboo subject’ of the study, rather than reporting objectively. Is it taboo because it is about frailer older people? Or because of sex? Or does the journalist somehow think that old people and sex shouldn’t occur in the same sentence?
The term ‘aged care facilities’ replaced the old ‘nursing homes’ terminology with the passage of the Aged Care Act 1997. Anyone who talks about one of these facilities as a ‘home’ probably hasn’t visited one recently.
The study of sex in aged-care facilities
According to the report, the student hopes to recruit carers in aged care facilities ‘…to discuss the difficulties they encounter when dealing with residents’ sexual behaviours… because in nursing homes there is (sic) not a lot of resources or knowledge about sexual behaviours.’
In this way, she hopes to ‘gain an understanding of sexual behaviours and sexual patterns within aged-care facilities.’
To discuss other people’s behaviour with third parties, in this case, carers, seems both insensitive and disrespectful of the older men and women requiring care.
Perhaps a better way to gain an understanding about any behaviour would be to consult with the people concerned. In this case, they would be the residents themselves. They are the consumers of the aged care services and it is their behaviour which is being studied.
As a social scientist with considerable research experience, as well as many years’ involvement as an aged-care nurse and later professional advocate, I’m gob-smacked!
I can only wish this ambitious young woman the best of luck with her study of a topic which one would think demands considerably more than an honours thesis to do it justice.