A Tender Touch

Christmas time approaches, families get together and enjoy each other’s company. It is a time for people to get together and spend some quality time with friends and family especially those they have not seen recently or for those who live far away. For seniors who spend much of their time alone, this can be a difficult and often very lonely time. Many of their friends have departed or moved away.

It is not surprising therefore to find that some seniors, especially those in retirement facilities may develop some close relationships with the opposite sex. In short, Gramps might hook up with Ethel on the third floor and proudly declare their love for one another. Worse still, he might proudly and defiantly announce his intention to marry her, knowing full well that this will cause a furor in the family.

A sticky situation to be sure, but not one that is all that uncommon. The question is why should it cause a furor in the family at all? Does Gramps not have the right to find a lady of his choosing?  The whole situation makes many of us uncomfortable because, let’s face it, even as adults, we still shudder at the thought of our parents having…. you know…. sex. Gross and Eew.  The fact of the matter is that everyone is entitled to a healthy sex life even if does gross out the “kids”.

In reality though, sexual relations among the elder are a lot more sweet and innocent than we realize. Seniors have, more likely than not, lost their long time spouse and they miss the companionship of having someone close to share things with. A friend is not the same thing. Humans need to have someone to touch and hold, to share the good times with and the bad.

Often the children of such seniors will be up in arms and see no reason why such a relationship must culminate in marriage, why can’t they just hug and cuddle and be done with it? The answer is simple. They grew up in a different time and while they know that they are not going to have more children, have no issues with raising families together, probably don’t have a mortgage to worry about either, they still need to marry. It is what people serious about their love for one another do. “To love and to hold until death do us part.”

Who are we to deny them this gift of love and companionship? Sure, your inheritance might be split or decreased, but here is the news flash. Any inheritance you may receive is not yours until Gramps chooses to lie down gracefully and depart from this earth. In today’s world, Gramps might very well outlive you and who are you to deny his having a life partner to cherish until that time comes, as it will eventually come.

Some children of these senior lovebirds feel that he is being disrespectful to the memory of their mother. A sensitive issue, and one that needs to be discussed on an individual basis. With our own generation divorcing and remarrying more often than not, do our seniors not have the same right to find happiness again? Does falling in love again mean that they no longer care for or love their deceased spouses? Of course not. Families who have this kind of concern can benefit tremendously from family counseling. Better to have counseling now than suffer petulant resentment for the rest of your parent’s life.

It is not always that simple though. There are serious moral issues that can arise. Sex among two people must be consensual. What happens if Ethel on the third floor has dementia and she thinks Gramps is her dearly departed husband? Is sex then consensual if she says yes, but doesn’t really know who she is sleeping with?  It is only when these moral issues arise that we might have to step in and take Gramps aside and have a talk with him. It might be the time to consult a therapist to work through these issues, but unless there are moral issues involved, we really need to respect their need for companionship and love and put our personal feelings aside.

There is always space in this world for more tolerance, love and compassion.

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