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Exploring Sexual Health Within The Older Adult Community

The discussion of sexual health has shown steady progress over the years, but like many areas in life, there's always potential for growth in terms of dispelling myths and knocking down taboos. In case some of you may be wondering, sex actually does not all of a sudden stop once you reach a certain age, and stds do not magically disappear either. Conversations on sexual health must continue so that we are more educated, and so that we can make healthy choices when it comes to our own sexual health.

Conner Rose Griffin, a nursing student from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discusses with us a special project she is working on in collaboration with other students that involves exploring sexual health within the older adult population. In addition, Conner also explains how Intimate Earth will be involved in educating the community on sexual wellness and the health benefits of utilizing the brand's products.

Briefly introduce yourself to us.

I have always had a strong desire and passion to pursue a career in the healthcare field. I knew from a very young age that this was the path that I wanted to go down. Growing up in a family with a father who was a nurse in the emergency department, I would listen to his stories and the impact he had on people’s lives and the community in which we live. As I got older, I realized that becoming a nurse was not just a job but a calling to help others.

I am currently working on my second bachelor’s degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I graduated with my first degree from UMass in May 2019 with a bachelor’s in public health and got accepted into the University’s accelerated nursing program. I am in my final year of the program and will graduate in December 2020.

We learned that you are working on a special project at the university. Can you elaborate on what your project is about?

The project is part of my community clinical rotation. Students are placed in a variety of settings including senior centers, nursing homes, adult day health programs, women's shelters, substance abuse programs etc... We are given full freedom to choose what community health promotion/interventions we choose to implement based on the setting we are placed.

The facility I am at is low-income independent living for the older adult. The population is currently 55+. There are four other students who are in my clinical group working with this population. We conducted small focus groups to see where the needs of this community were. Many identified a need for personal care items and education on self-care, diabetes management, depression, nutrition, sexual health etc...

One of my groups goals for this project is to put together various care kits to distribute to the residents so they have some of the basic necessities they often need but go without.

Can you explain how University of Massachusetts Amherst is involved?

The university is not playing a direct role in this project, but they encourage all of their students to think big and push boundaries. At the end of the semester we will be show casing our work at a small conference among other nursing students and faculty. We hope to inspire them with our work in the realm of sexual health and the older adult population. We are very optimistic that what we are doing can help ease the stigma that surrounds sexual health relating to this population.

What inspired you to explore sexual health with the older adult population? Why is it important to explore this area, and specifically, with the older population?

My group members including myself had this idea in the back of our minds that we wanted to address this topic, but we weren’t sure if it was going to be a good fit or how to get started asking the residents about it. The first day at the facility we met various residents. The hot topic among them was sex. They were eager to share with us their unique relationship dynamics, what they like, don’t like, what they want in the bedroom etc… We were blown away! This was not something we were expecting to walk into. Usually when you think of older adults there are a few words that pop into your mind; boring, sleepy, bingo addicts, knitting, wrinkly, and gray-haired shorty’s. I can assure you that this is not the case here. These individuals are vibrant and full of life. They constantly are seeking out new experiences and are eager to learn.

We feel that this is a very important and relevant topic to discuss, sex is not something that goes away with age. Yet, many people do not feel comfortable talking about this topic among this population. This population is notorious for high rates of STIs, so talking about using protection is important. They also may experience normal changes that come with aging such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness. We are planning on educating the residents on a variety of related topics such as protection methods, lubricant use, masturbation, sexual aides, optimal positions, sign & symptoms of STIs and STDs as well as what they can do and resources they can access.

What can residents expect to grasp from the educational series presentation on sexual health?

We are hoping to make this as fun and engaging as we can. We would like them to be able to identify ways to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading any unwanted infections. How to use various barrier methods (maybe such methods didn’t exist or education was not taught). As well as tools to help them spice things up in the bedroom.

Why did you choose Intimate Earth to be included in the educational series presentation?

We absolutely fell in love with your company and the values you stand for. We believe that sex is a natural and beautiful thing. Your companies’ positive attitude toward sexual health and intimacy is lovely. We also were drawn to Intimate Earth because of the ingredients you use to make your products. We think what you put into your body is very important and you have taken the time to create wonderful clean products that consumers can trust, and use worry free without having to do researching to see if the ingredients are potentially harmful to oneself.

Do you think that the discussion of sexual health has improved over the years?

I feel that the discussion of sexual health has improved over the years. I think we are living in a society where it is more acceptable to talk about sex and not have to worry about being shamed. I also think that it is easier to talk about sex with someone who is older compared to a young adult or even a teenager. Older adults have more lived experiences and know what they like and don’t like. They also have a more relaxed attitude about them when you talk about this topic.

We appreciate you sharing your time with us and for including us in your project. We believe that a project like yours will generate positive attitudes towards sexual health and will encourage everyone to develop healthy habits in their own sex lives. Thank you!

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