S-E-X. It’s still regarded by some as an “off-limits” topic, something people don’t talk about in “polite” company and something few aged care facility operators have openly embraced. But could that be about to change?
Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia has included sex, sexuality and intimacy on the agenda of its first national conference on the Gold Coast on March 23-24.
Sydney-based sex worker, lobbyist and activist Rachel Wotton has spent more than a decade raising awareness of the equal rights of people with disability to enjoy sexual expression.
Ahead of the conference, Ms Wotton told The Senior that older Australians also had the right to say yes to sex and sexual expression and that she would urge policymakers and aged care service providers to put aside stereotyped views of sex, intimacy and ageing, sexuality and paid sexual services.
“We need to move away from the idea that sex has to be penetrative and that that’s what intimacy is all about,” Ms Wotton said.
“Much of what sex workers do (with older clients) is talking and providing companionship, curling up in bed with a client watching a favourite movie or listening to music while sipping a port or satisfying a very human need to be touched.
“Why is it that a person who has been sexually active since the age of 18 and who is now 72, perhaps, and in a low-care aged facility has to just stop having-wanting intimate contact?
“For anyone who finds it too confronting to discuss the sexual needs and desires of people in aged care facilities, I always remind them that we are all living on this earth because two people had sex!
“Aged care residences that don’t allow visitors after 10pm? I find that appalling treatment of human beings: it’s treating the residents as though they are children in boarding school dorms.”
Ms Wotton is a co-founder of Touching Base, aSydney organisation breaking down attitudinal barriers around the sexual rights of people with disability.
Consumer control ‘not reality’
The much-vaunted increase in choice for aged care package recipients has left many older people feeling more frustrated and disappointed, according to consumer advocate Brendan Pope.
“The expectation was that older Australians were being given control of what they wanted, when and where they wanted it, but that’s not reality,” said Mr Pope, who works for the Aged Rights Advocacy Service inSouth Australia.
Ahead of his presentation on consumer-directed care at the Gold Coast conference, Mr Pope said choice did not equate with access or ability to engage in a service.
“Yes there’s a significant range of services to choose from but they are within predefined parameters,” he said. “Your choices are still dictated to some extent: ageism permeates aged care.
“Choice doesn’t address socio-economic barriers. The person in most genuine need may not be able to access a service.
“Operators are under no obligation to service all areas. And we have clients frustrated because they can’t get a service at a time that suits them.”
Mr Pope said Aged Rights Advocacy Services continued to be concerned about administrative fees and case management costs eating up as much as 40 per cent of government-subsidised funding.
- The conference will be held on the Gold Coast on March 23-24. Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia, (07) 3637-6000, adaaustralia.com.au