Tony, from Victoria, wants to see a change attitude towards sexuality and intimacy as we age. #ItStartsWithYou
“My name is Tony, former Chair of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Younger Onset Dementia Reference Group. My partner Paul passed away last year, having lived with Lewy body disease.
In this piece, I am referring to those diagnosed with younger onset dementia (before the age of 65) and those ‘younger hearted’ above the age of 65.
Paul and I had always planned to travel when we were both retired – something we brought forward after Paul had to give up work earlier than we expected. We did 15 cruises before he went into care, and went around the world three times.
The cruise companies made it easy to travel with someone living with dementia. Once I had told them of Paul’s condition, they made sure the staff attending to our room and those regularly serving us at mealtimes were aware. Security staff were also informed, or had easy access to the information if the situation required it.
Whilst initially Paul was a little concerned that I had told the pursers office of his condition, on subsequent cruises he urged me to do it as soon as possible, which I believe is a measure of the confidence he felt that the information was in good hands.
Both Paul and I craved for recognition that our needs were just like anyone else in our age group. Throughout Paul’s journey, we had to attend to our sexual needs, which was easy when he was living at home, but more difficult once he needed high care. Just because he had reached that stage in his dementia, it did not mean those desires evaporated. It was just a little more difficult to fulfil them.
This was made more even more difficult by the general assumption amongst society that we no longer needed opportunities for sex and intimacy. It is society that creates the hurdles when you are diagnosed with dementia. Only changes in attitudes can remove them.
One change I would like to see as we work towards a dementia-friendly nation is a shift in people’s attitude towards sexuality and intimacy as we age, so that older people and people living with dementia and other issues are not deprived of their right to a satisfying and fulfilling sex life.”
Thank you for sharing your story - it is an important message to us all.