When the working life of men and women comes to an end, they tend to focus their interests and attention on their homes and family life. Because of this concentration of interest and attention, conditions which previously may have been only minor hazards tend to become major hazards, threatening their physical as well as their psychological well-being.

Because the pattern of family life differs greatly for different people throughout the life span, the changes in this pattern that old age brings will also differ greatly. However, there are certain family-life hazards that are common, four of which are especially common and serious.

Sexual Deprivation

The first family-life hazard in old age is sexual deprivation. The change in the pattern of family life in old age may and often does result in sexual deprivation at a time when the sex drive is far from dormant.

Elderly people who are sexually deprived may engage in substitute forms of sexual expression, some of which met their needs earlier. Most of these are frowned on by others and may lead to unfavourable social and self-judgments. The most common substitute sources of sexual satisfaction during old age are given in below:

Common Substitute Sources of Sexual Satisfaction in Old Age


There is evidence that masturbation is widely practiced by elderly men and women who have few if any other sexual outlets, particularly those who are becoming senile.

Erotic Dreams and Daydreams

Erotic dreams and daydreams are a common substitute source of sexual satisfaction among elderly women who are widowed or divorced and also among those who are married but whose husbands are unable, because of failing health or impotence, to engage in sexual activities. This substitute source of sexual satisfaction is more common in women than in men.

Thinking about Sex

Many elderly men who are sexually deprived not only think about sex but talk about it with their contemporaries. In addition, they like to look at pornographic pictures and tell off-color jokes. Elderly women seldom engage in this form of substitute satisfaction.

Sexual Recrudescence

Elderly men may be sexually attracted to young girls or women, and some may want to marry girls young enough to be their granddaughters. Occasionally they may rape children or adults. Older women may play with dolls, assume a mothering role with someone else’s child, or become infatuated with men young enough to be their grandsons.