Sexuality and intimacy in assisted living: Residents’ perspectives and experiences

Special Issue Articles


The assisted living industry provides residential, medical, nutritional, functional, and social services for approximately 1 million older adults in the United States. Despite their holistic approach to person-centered care and their emphasis on a consumer-empowered, social environment, assisted living providers pay scant attention to clients’ sexual needs. In this article, the authors discuss the realities of sex and intimacy in assisted living from the perspectives of residents, families, managers, and staff, exploring the discourse of sexuality, the impact of institutional structure and the role of oversight on sexual attitudes and behaviors, and the relationship of assisted living industry values to residents’ sexual expression. Also presented are practical recommendations and policy implications for addressing the sexual and intimacy needs of current and future cohorts of assisted living residents. Data for this article were drawn from 3 National Institute on Aging-funded ethnographic studies conducted in 13 assisted living settings over 9 years.

Key words

long-term care qualitative methodology aging ethnography institutional oversight 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Center for Aging StudiesUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountyBaltimore
  2. 2.Center for Aging StudiesUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore CountyBaltimore

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