(NaturalNews) Not only is it assumed that older adults suffer from sexual dysfunction as a normal cause of aging, it is also believed that most do not have sexual desires. The significance of this is twofold. First, regular sexual expression is associated with good physical and mental health. Therefore, to excuse poor sexual function in the elderly as "normal" simply enables the situation by further perpetuating ill health in an already over medicated population. Secondly, who benefits from this stereotype? Big Pharma, of course! Time and time again, we see Pharma creating a problem behind the curtain only to enter the stage as the "hero" offering a new drug as the solution.
Subsequently, the perceived asexual status of old age has affected the way general practitioners and geriatricians interact with their patients regarding their sexual history. This has caused an entire generation of doctors who are woefully untrained to help the elderly deal with the underlining causes of sexual dysfunction; namely, nutrition, exercise, stress levels, etc. So what do MDs do? Prescribe drugs. With over $1.015 billion in sales in 2010 alone, Pfizer's Viagra is big business.
Barriers to healthy sexual expression in the elderly
A recent article published in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research explored the barriers and taboos associated with sexual activity within the elderly population; suggested strategies to encourage healthy sexual expression for the elderly; and offered talking points and helpful tips to assist physicians as they discuss this touchy subjects with their patients.
The authors of this study shared that the common barriers to healthy sexual expression for the elderly include: failing health; decreased energy; pain/deformity, especially sciatica and other hip issues; medicine side-effects; depression; monotony of repetitive sexual relationships; and physical unattractiveness of spouses. Post-menopausal women are oftentimes affected with insecure feelings of being sexually undesirable and may subsequently lose interest in sex. Men struggle with self-esteem concerns as well, although more lose their sexual hunger due to viewing their aging partner as "unattractive." Older men are also affected by hypertension, diabetes, prostate enlargement, and cancer which has been linked to impotence
Breaking down the barriers
According to researchers, one of the factors which contribute to breaking down the above-mentioned sexual barriers and taboos is the willingness of physicians to approach their patients concerning their sexual history. Simply dismissing the issue as "normal" then prescribing Viagra is borderline patient neglect/malpractice. The researchers suggest the following:
• Time: Physicians need to manage their time appropriately to allow for "extra" time to engage with their patients for sensitive topics like this. It would serve the medical community well to ditch the fast food mentality for healthcare. • Language: Proper talking points and best practices need to be learned and addressed by doctors as the taboos have made this an "untouchable topic." • Privacy: Overcoming the potential uncomfortable moment when a family member attends an office visit with an elderly patient is key. This is not hard to accomplish. Proper bed-side manner is key. • Sexuality seen as a non-medical issue: Proper education in medical school is required so that physicians understand that sexuality is a vital function for health. • Younger doctors: Doctors need to do their best in relating to their older patients who may feel that they cannot relate. This takes patience and training to develop, both of which the medical system does not support at this time.
In a world where doctor visits resemble fast food transactions, the need for caring health care providers is clearly evident. These barriers need to be overcome, otherwise many elderly will be robbed of their God-given right to experience healthy sexual expression.
Sources for this article include:
Inelmen EM, Sergi G, Girardi A, Coin A, Toffanello ED, Cardin F, Manzato E. The importance of sexual health in the elderly: breaking down barriers and taboos. Aging Clin Exp Res 2012; Jun; 24: 31-4.
Lindau S. A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2007 August 23; 357(8): 762-774.
About the author: Journalist, medical researcher, speaker, and life coach, Eric L. Zielinski has been writing prolifically since 1998. Formerly trained as primary care provider and peer-review researcher, he has published an eclectic selection of health content for several print and online publications. Zielinski earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Wayne State University in 2002 and is currently wrapping up his Doctorate of Chiropractic at Life University along with a Masters of Public Health at Emory University. Visit his blog. Track his work on facebook. Read Eric's other naturalnews.com articles.
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