People in Western cultures live increasingly longer, and medical advancements, health care availability, and lifestyle changes have widened the possibilities of continued sexuality, sexual activity, and sexual diversity well into older adulthood. Yet, research studies have mainly eschewed discussions of sexual possibilities. Although studies have examined the benefits of sexual activity, often they focus purely on sexual function and sexual dysfunction, physical limitations, and the practicalities (such as finding a partner) of sex as persons age. This commentary posits that, in many instances, the social constraints around aging and sexuality inhibit sexuality in older adults in ways that may be more significant than functional or practical limitations. Portrayals in the media either reinforce social norms of the asexual older adult or portray images of the “sexy oldie” that may be unattainable for many older adults. We provide a brief review of sexuality research and prevailing sexual social norms. As Towler et al.’s (2021) elaborate study illustrates, many sexually active older adults struggle with ageism, stigma, and shame arising from the perceived social unacceptability of their sexuality. Studies of older adults from other Western countries reveal similar stories. Accordingly, achieving sexual well-being may be more dependent on changing social norms around sexuality and aging than on discovering new arousal medication to treat physical limitations. Moreover, we advocate for changing the social and academic dialogue from successful aging, which requires maintaining health and vitality-to the aging experience, which incorporates aspects of positive aging such as sexual wisdom, sexual experience, and the sexual diversity that comes with older adulthood. This “new sexual revolution” would elevate sexuality and aging as socially admirable and desirable.
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