From the excellent blog Hit & Run, hosted by Reason Magazine comes this interesting article:
Melinda Henneberger at Slate writes about 82-year-old Dorothy and 95-year-old Bob, whose love affair at the nursing home for dementia patients is considered adorable until it turns sexual.
To justify keeping the two apart, Bob’s family frets about the danger posed by his bad heart (which Dorothy’s doctor firmly dismissed as just plain wrong), and then more or less admits that they’re opposed to the relationship simply on principle: Old people should be contemplative and chaste. Period.
But what it really comes down to is the money:
Dorothy’s son-in-law, who is a doctor, suspects Bob’s son of fearing for his inheritance. Bob had repeatedly proposed for all to hear and called Dorothy his wife, but his son called her something else–a “gold digger”–and refused to even discuss her family’s offer to sign a prenup.
Families don’t want their mentally unsound loved ones entering contracts that will leave children and grandchildren sorting through a mess of legal entanglements–fair enough. And something like the “sexual power of attorney” suggested in the article might be a good option. But do we really want to say that forgetful old people shouldn’t be allowed to have sex, just because they’re, well, forgetful and old?
If boomers are going to make a case for restricting their parents’ liberty in the last few years of life, perhaps they should first look their own futures and ask themselves if they want their children oppressing their sexual appetites in the year 2030.
The Slate article referenced is a fascinating – and sobering – read. Some excerpts:
“We’re all going to get old, if we’re lucky,” said the daughter, who is a lawyer. And if we get lucky when we’re old, then we need to have drawn up a sexual power of attorney before it’s too late. Who controls the intimate lives of people with dementia? Unless specific provision has been made, their families do.
When Bob’s son became aware of these trysts, he tried to put a stop to them—in the manager’s view because the son felt that old people “should be old and rock in the chair.”
[S]aid the manager: “At first, she thought it was cute they were together, but when it became sexual, she lost her senses” [and] for religious reasons and asked staff members to help keep the two of them apart.
Then the daughter interjected that Bob’s son certainly didn’t want to see them having oral sex, and the doctor proved his own point. Holding a hand up to stop her from saying any more, he told her, “I didn’t need to know that.” But maybe the rest of us do.
I’m not old enough to need to worry about this, but the article has given me some food for thought. A “sexual power of attorney” sounds like a great backup plan, but who would administer this? My children? Gosh, that’s a pretty weird concept. Assuming that I’m in that position, do I really need to ask “Hey kids, do you mind if I boink that nice GMILF* in the other wing?”
Ouch! It’s bad enough when you’re a teenager to have had to worry about sneaking sex without your parents finding out. Are we going to see a generation of people who now have to worry about sneaking sex so that their children don’t find out? And adding the mental breakdown – dementia – to this mix makes it a very difficult thing to manage on an emotional level, both for the patients themselves, and for their families.
*Grand-Mother I’d Love to Fuck.