This is a rare instance of a post that is published in both categories of my blog—Intimacy & Aging, and MCI. While it was originally written toward people dealing with memory and cognitive loss, I feel it is relevant to many readers interested in intimacy and aging as well.
On my website under the section Intimacy & Aging I posted an essay entitled: Life long need for touch. In this post I talk about the instinctive and vital need for couples to touch throughout their life, even and perhaps especially, into old age.
“I’m not talking about intercourse here, but rather the soft, gentle, touch of skin on skin. And if possible, body to body touching: lying next to one another, sharing pheromones, cooing and caressing.”
Recently, after an intimate afternoon of making love, Keith asked me if I had posted on the MCI section of my website anything about intimacy. I was surprised when I had to answer, “No, I haven’t posted about that—but I will.”
Since that interchange I’ve questioned myself as to why I haven’t written about continuing to be intimate even as my memory and cognition declines. I pondered: I’ve written about so many of my other fears; why not this critically important aspect?
In examining this further, I realized that for some reason, I don’t believe my desire and capacity to remain sexually active will be affected, impaired and/or decreased for a long while to come. This is mere speculation on my part as I have no facts or references to back up my thoughts. In fact I haven’t read any discussion about this aspect of life on any websites or publications dealing with MCI. (I think I’ll ask my psychiatrist about this at my next session).
I’m not speaking here about intercourse, rather of being touched, caressed, and cuddled by Keith. Engaging in sex for me feels natural and normal, and as habitual as the hardened memory I still have for many other tasks, skills and pleasures of life I continue to enjoy.
After making love I feel relaxed. Calm. Peaceful. Cherished. I feel capable, confident and so pleased I am able to give Keith pleasure, and can physically express my love for him.
Intimacy—physical intimacy—has always been and continues to be a restorative expression of our love and commitment to each other.
There has been very little research done on the effects of sexual activity and cognitive function. In my search I was able to find one study which concluded: “Our findings have implications for the promotions of sexual counseling in health care settings, where maintaining a healthy sex life in older age could be instrumental in improving cognitive function and well-being.”
Certainly there will be more research done on this topic as more people experience the effects of memory issues, but at this point research is lacking. That’s why I believe so fiercely in the value of telling our stories. We need to know, and feel assured and confident, that intimacy can and should be shared with our partners for as long as possible. Touch is a vital component of healing, which doesn’t always mean curing. Healing can encompass calming, solace, compassion, serenity, and most important, love.