Albany ECU psychology student looking into sexual behaviour of aged care residents

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Edith Cowan University Psychology student Marie Smith.
Camera IconEdith Cowan University Psychology student Marie Smith. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

It is a touchy subject but an Albany psychology student wants to get up close and personal with the sexual behaviour of residents in aged-care homes.

Edith Cowan University student Marie Smith has made the taboo topic the focus of her honours thesis — and she is calling for Great Southern carers to open up about their experiences in aged care.

Ms Smith said she wanted the carers, who would remain anonymous, to discuss the difficulties they might encounter when dealing with residents’ sexual behaviours and the support available to them. “It’s an interesting research topic,” she said.

“In nursing homes there is not a lot of resources or knowledge about sexual behaviours.

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“There is some research but it’s mainly conducted with either residents or managers, so the point of my study is to look at the perspectives of the carers.”

“They spend most of their time with the residents. They are the ones I want to talk to.”

Ms Smith, pictured, said that she wanted to gain an understanding of sexual behaviour and sexual patterns within aged-care facilities.

“It is so broad, it could be a patient reading 50 Shades of Grey, sexual activity between residents or sexual comments — it’s really open to everything,” she said.

“Years ago, I worked in nursing homes and it was something that I thought about.

“Years later, I was looking through a range of different topics and I am quite interested in sexuality, so this seemed like a good fit.”

Ms Smith said sex in aged-care homes was a subject not often touched on. “Aged care is quite topical at the moment and this is something I really want to look into,” she said.

“If there is anyone who needs support in how to approach and deal with sexual behaviours in an aged-care facility, it’s the workers, the nurses.

“I want to find out what support they need — what is available to them, what would make it easier for them to deal with patients’ sexual behaviours.”

There would be no right or wrong answers in her research, Ms Smith said.

“It’s such a taboo topic, but it doesn’t need to be,” she said.

“People often think old people don’t have sex, but they do — it happens. Just because someone turns 70, it doesn’t mean the switch turns off.

“There is this kind of myth that it doesn’t happen, that people at a certain age stop having interest or any sexual desire — that’s not true.”

If you are interested in participating in Ms Smith’s research, call her on 0487 982 722.

Interviews are confidential. Participants remain anonymous and will receive a $20 Coles Myer Voucher.

A summary of Ms Smith’s findings will be available on request in November.

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