Romance And Aging

Travel agencies try to persuade us that romance flourishes in the right setting. Advertisements barrage us with products that promise to make us sexy, glittering, powerful, desirable.

Although these messages are biased and superficial, they do touch upon the truth. There are circumstances that quicken our heartbeat and sharpen our appreciation for sensual possibilities. We feel good and want to share the feeling. We look good to each other and something very pleasant might well happen.

Unfortunately, the general lifestyle of many old people is a long way from anyone’s romantic ideal. Their immediate physical environment, the clothes they wear, the activities they share, and many of the elements that contribute to the “feel” of daily life – are often limited by finances. Even basic requirements may be lacking.

The elderly man may lack the hearing aid that would help natural intimate dialogue; the elderly woman may be wearing glasses that have needed replacing for a long time. He might feel more like a live man if he had a smart addition to his wardrobe and the means to take his wife somewhere special. She might feel more special herself if she could afford a beauty treatment now and then.

Healthy young adults can more easily overcome the distractions, inconveniences and even ugliness that may surround them. Nonetheless, most young lovers will prefer certain settings that make them feel “right.” And old lovers could benefit even more from an environment conducive to ease, stimulation and pleasure.

Unfortunately, the fear and ridicule and disapproval can fill the desire for intimacy with conflict. The combination of social pressure with gradual biological decline can result in a disastrous situation.

The elderly man desires the respect of society and the respect of his own conscience. To maintain this respect he may have to relinquish an active sexual life either through conscious decision or through physiological inability.

Romance is further dependent on the physical and mental health of both elderly lovers. Poor health of one partner usually means that both are deprived of an intimate and physical expression. It may not be entirely clear, for example, whether it’s disability or the loss of interest that has curtailed any activity. “Perhaps I am not appealing to him anymore,” the wife may wonder as old doubts return. The same may hold true for the husband. In any event, if both partners share a continued need for intimacy, but illness enters the picture for both or for one, medical consultation may open up an avenue to a return to physical contact even if the ailing partner may not fully recover.

The need for intimate contact persists into “singlehood” in any of its forms. Chaucer called it “the olde dauncer.”

Quotable Quote: “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness.”
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