While the marketplace for sex-related goods and services, including drugs to remedy sexual dysfunction or enhance sexual experience, appears to be expanding exponentially, sexuality and intimacy are poorly understood aspects of human life and health. At some point, most adults experience sexual problems, concerns, or dysfunction, but physicians and other health care providers are poorly equipped to elicit discussion of or to treat these problems. Furthermore, social, cultural, and religious traditions largely exert negative influence on an individual's capacity for sexual self-knowledge and communication about sexual concerns. Ageist attitudes and overlapping health concerns further divert awareness and attention from sexual issues and exacerbate the problem for older adults. Physicians, the public, and policymakers alike assume that sexual expression and function inevitably wane and deteriorate with age. Even when sexual problems are anticipated or correctly diagnosed, a paucity of effective therapies prohibits treatment. To address these problems, a small consensus workshop of leading researchers on sexuality, intimacy, and aging was convened to review and evaluate current data on:
- sexuality and intimacy as part of a healthy lifestyle throughout life
- causes and impact of problems relating to sexuality and intimacy
- pharmaceutical and other therapeutic interventions
The workshop aimed to identify research gaps and disagreement about current data, to construct a research agenda for future work, and to make recommendations in order to assist individuals in maintaining a healthy sexual and intimate life into their later years.