Merck Manual

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Intimacy and Older People

By

Daniel B. Kaplan

, PhD, LICSW, Adelphi University School of Social Work

Reviewed/Revised Apr 2023 | Modified Sep 2023
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Intimacy refers to a feeling of closeness shared between two people. It is based on knowledge of and familiarity with the other person. It includes emotional, social (based on shared experiences), and physical intimacy (including touching, cuddling, and sexual intercourse).

The desire for intimacy does not decrease with age, and there is no age at which intimacy, including physical intimacy, is inappropriate. However, the disorders and emotional changes that often occur with aging can interfere with developing and maintaining an intimate relationship. Aging can also change the way intimacy is expressed.

Intimacy, particularly physical intimacy, may be lost because of the following:

Nonetheless, many older people continue to have a healthy sexual relationship. Intimacy, particularly physical intimacy, can help prevent depression and improve self-esteem and physical health.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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