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Intimacy and Older People

By

Daniel B. Kaplan

, PhD, LICSW, Adelphi University School of Social Work;


Barbara J. Berkman

, DSW, PhD, Columbia University School of Social Work

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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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. Studies have shown that people who remain active and who interact with other people during old age live longer, happier, healthier lives. Volunteering, taking classes, joining social groups, engaging in hobbies, and pursuing some type of spiritual or religious practice are all ways of staying connected. Even people who are confined to their home because of illness can stay connected by having others visit them or by communicating over the telephone or by e-mail.

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

Many older people, especially those that live alone, find satisfaction and a sense of companionship in interactions with a pet. Caring for a pet can give people a sense of purpose and connectedness.

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