Older people as cyber-sexual beings

Online dating sites are providing older people with the opportunity to begin new romantic and sexual relations but there are also challenges.

Dr Sue Malta, NARI researcher, and Summer Roberts, University of South Carolina Beaufort have co-authored a chapter on Older People as Cyber Sexual Beings in the recently published book, Addressing the Sexual Rights of Older People: theory, policy and practice.

The book is edited by Catherine Barrett and Sharron Hinchcliff. 

Sue and Summer say that online dating websites could be doing far more to provide older people with the sexual health resources they need to empower themselves as sexual beings. 

“Without appropriate recognition of the dating and sexual behaviours of this population by governments, the medical profession and other service providers, suitable health and education programs cannot be designed to ensure sex-positive messages are reaching older people,” Dr Malta said.

“Failure to recognise older people’s sexuality is not only detrimental to their ongoing health and their ability to remain productive into very old age, but it is also an affront to their dignity and a denial of their rights to be sexually active at any age.”

The authors suggest that more could be done to highlight the risks associated with writing online personal profiles.

“What is happening is that older daters are sharing too much information about themselves publicly which has the potential for putting them at risk from predators,” Dr Malta said.

The authors recommend that dating websites should require  specific forms of identification, like driver’s licences, which might prevent scams occurring.

More could be done to help combat ageist stereotypes online as well, the authors suggest.

“Limiting the use of advertisements and commercials presenting unattainable images of ageing and presenting more realistic images of older people could also alleviate older members feeling as if they must measure up to a certain standard,” said Dr Malta.