Concerned by lack of attention to needs relating to intimacy and sexuality in care homes accommodating older people, OPUS began a feasibility study in the Northwest region.
OPUS - Older People's Understandings of Sexuality consists of academics in sociology, psychology and nursing across four Universities, including the University of Queensland, Australia and older people's representatives. Team members are listed at the end of this article.
To put residents and sexuality and intimacy on the agenda, OPUS has consulted with residents, spouses of residents, fellow academics and professional carers to get a sense of the significance of doing research on care home residents and sexuality/intimacy and good practice on how any such work should be conducted.
The team is developing academic journal articles to disseminate its findings. We have developed a review of the literature on sexuality and intimacy in care homes accommodating older people and are developing a key article examining residents,' spouses' and professional carers' views on meeting sexuality and intimacy needs. This paper concludes that such accounts are diverse and range from denial of sexuality, nostalgia about a sexual/intimate past and claims by individuals to continue to be recognized as intimate and/or sexual beings. OPUS is also developing two articles that address consulting and involving older people in researching on a sensitive and personal issue with a seldom-heard group. We are also reviewing staff development resources that exist internationally to help care staff enable residents to meet - where chosen - residents' own sexuality and intimacy needs. We also aim to produce plainer English versions of findings for publication in broadsheet press (or media) and professional journals e.g. Nursing Times.
All the above initiatives will feed into a funding bid to conduct larger piece of national (possibly cross-national ) research on a sexuality and intimacy in relation to a range of older residents (who differ by ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality etc).
We also welcome expressions of interest by a range of older people, especially heterosexually identified women, to become part of the OPUS initiative and be part of a steering group for future research. We would hope that new members would join us some time in 2016.
Some recent findings from OPUS