“There are heartbreaks at 90 that are as violent as teenage love”

Doctor Patrick Papazian speaks in the podcast “Not even dead” of the Little Brothers of the Poor, launched in September on the occasion of the publication of the association’s report on the emotional, intimate and sexual life of the elderly.

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Why is the sexuality of older people a taboo subject?

We have stereotypical representations of people based on their age. It’s called ageism and it’s a scourge, just like racism and homophobia. Within ageism, there is sexual ageism. Without even realizing it, we will tend to infantilize an elderly couple by saying that they are “too cute”, as if they were Care Bears stroking the back of their hands. However, there are heartaches at 90 that are as violent as adolescent love, and people who still have desire at 90. Moreover, with the delay of ejaculation which lengthens, men sometimes know a new youth.

What forms can this discrimination take?

During my medical studies, I worked in nursing homes. I remember a service meeting was called because a man and a woman had slept together. The question was: how to separate them? That was thirty years ago, but I can tell you, still working with these structures, it hasn’t changed much. The staff is not trained, and the children and grandchildren of the residents are not at all ready to receive this kind of information. The cliché of the perverted grandpa has a long life.

It’s not uncommon to hear seniors say, “It’s not for me anymore…”

This internalized ageism starts very young. As soon as you are 50 years old, you enter the strategies of retirement plans and, at 60 years old, you are almost at the disposal. At 90, you’ve been a senior for forty years… You’ve had plenty of time to tell yourself that you’re no longer good for anything. Beyond this limit your ticket is no longer validby Romain Gary (published in 1975), talk about it. My role in consultation is to say that your ticket is valid until the moment you want it. I remember a gentleman who discovered sadomasochistic practices at the age of 80, and a woman saying to me: “I was hoping to be obsessed with desserts and soap operas, but I realize that sexuality is always a subject in my life. »

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What are the prejudices among the medical staff?

Doctors tend to think that the expression of sexual desire in older people is a symptom of deteriorating cognitive functions. As part of a simulation for a research work in 2018, when we approached the typical profile of the widowed woman over 70, no general practitioner deemed it useful to probe her sexuality and do a screening of sexually transmitted infections, despite a clinical picture that could have put them on the path.

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