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Sexual Health And Wellbeing In Later Life

Sexual Health And Wellbeing In Later Life


A series of national research studies shows that people over 50 are often assumed to be non-sexual and invisible when it comes to their sex and intimacy needs. Not enough is being done to ensure older people can access good sexual health care and support, and rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in people aged over 45 is on the increase. Evidence further shows that relationships can provide a range of important physical, mental and emotional benefits to people at any age.

Manchester’s ageing strategy prioritises older people’s sexual health and wellbeing. We want to:

  • Develop age-appropriate and age-aware sexual health and advice services
  • Take seriously older people’s sexual and emotional needs
  • Tackle the ways older people’s sexuality is often ignored or marginalised.

We set up a group of individuals from public health, primary care, NGOs, healthcare professionals, and academics to coordinate the work. The group identified two work streams:

  1. The Big Conversation – campaigning to address negative stereotypes of sexuality in older people.
  2. The Small Conversation – targeted work with healthcare professionals to normalise and improve attitudes and knowledge on the sexual health and wellbeing of older people.

To date, we have:

  1. Held a Valentine’s Day workshop bringing older people together to speak about their experiences of sexual health services,
  2. Held a workshop in October with healthcare professionals to agree what would assist them to have better conversations with older people about their sex and intimacy needs,
  3. Run 2 communications campaigns, addressing negative stereotypes, sharing positive images of older people in relationships, quotes from older people collected at the Valentine’s workshop, and sexual health and relationships advice.


Key facts

Main target group: Older people in general

Other target group(s): Healthcare professionals and practitioners

Sector(s): Health, Information and communication

Desired outcome for older people:
Meet their basic needs

Other issues the Age-friendly practice aims to address:
  • Ageism
  • Accessibility
  • Healthy behaviours (e.g. physical activity)
  • Inequities
  • Inclusion
  • Participation

Contact details

Name: Naomi Davies

Email address:

Age-friendly practice in detail (click to expand):

Engaging the wider community

Project lead: Local authorities

Others involved in the project:
  • Civil Society Organisation
  • Older People’s Association
  • Social or health care provider
  • Research institution

How collaboration worked: This work is driven by the Sexual Health of Older People (SHOP) working group, established in 2018. In addition to Age Friendly Manchester (Local Government), there are members from the local Sexual Health Network, NGOs, public health, healthcare professionals and academics. Cross sector working in this way has succeeded for a number of reasons: – Clear common goals – via the identification of two work steams. – Communication – regular bi-monthly meetings with correspondence in between. – Clear team leadership on a dual basis – from Age Friendly Manchester and Public Health England. – Celebrating key milestones, such as the completion of consultation exercises or final reports. – Recognising individual contributions – Shared skills – diverse set of skills and disciplines across the group with members from different sectors. Resourcing has mainly been officer time in-kind with small pots of money provided by AFM. Future phases of the work e.g. production of a refreshed sexual health and relationships guide will require proper funding, which has been identified from within the Population Health team’s budget and Manchester’s health and social care partnership.

Older people’s involvement: Older people were involved in the age-friendly practice at multiple or all stages

Details on older people’s involvement: Older people were involved in the planning and development stages of our work & participated in a dedicated workshop on Valentine’s Day. Together, we identified the two key workstreams. Older people participated in the event which engaged healthcare professionals and practitioners, with their first-hand experiences of seeking sexual health support informing discussion. We are currently planning a training package for health professionals which would be co-designed & delivered by older people.

Moving forward

Has the impact of this age-friendly practice been analysed: No

Do you plan to evaluate your age-friendly practice? Yes

Comments from older people and professionals who attended the consultation events and workshops held in 2019 included: From older people: – Older person – “Enjoyed it immensely. Opportunity for an open discussion – I feel very positive” – Older person – “Thought provoking and insightful” – Older person – “I felt heard and seen by organisers. More of the same please.” From healthcare professionals: – Speech therapist – “Great informative talk. Really interesting points made. Very impressed with the work of Age Friendly Manchester!” – Physio Assistant – “Great information, well led. I learnt a lot about how to talk to patients about sex” – Physio Assistant – “Interesting, has made me re-analyse certain situations at work to which I will inform the team lead”

Expansion plans:
In 2020 we will do more work to identify what would aid healthcare professionals to have conversations with older people about their sex and intimacy needs. We will consult with more healthcare professionals and also plan to submit a bid for research funding. In 2020 we will update, rewrite and reprint our Over 50s Relationship and Sexual Health Guide, originally launched in 2009.

Looking back

Initially, how to connect with health care professionals in the right way was a challenge. Due to the nature of the topic it is not something that is necessarily on the radar of extremely busy health workers. Nor does introducing the topic into healthcare practice naturally offer an easy solution. However responses with healthcare professionals and health and social care leadership in the system has proven extremely positive and provides a solid platform for us to take forward this work.

Age-Friendly World