Having ‘The Talk’ With My 80-Something Dad

I was not prepared for the phone call from my father’s skilled nursing facility asking for permission to provide him contraceptives.

Comments: 206

  1. I don't understand the writer's outrage here --- why deny her father, who is after all, a full grown adult, the pleasure of a sexual relationship in his nursing facility? What possible purpose is served by doing so? At this stage of his life, he likely has few things to look forward to and few close relationships -- if he has met someone he cares for and she for him and they want to become intimate, who not? His life is short and he deserves whatever happiness he can have in the time left.

  2. @Buckeye Given the last line, it doesn't seem like she plans on denying him anything. Given his cognitive limitations, it makes sense to discuss STDs and consent ahead of time if possible.

  3. @Buckeye I think the idea was to make sure he would be using condoms to prevent STI spread. As the author stated her dad has cognitive issues, otherwise the nursing home would not be asking her permission. Legally, they have to make sure he is able to consent still. Many people with cognitive problems can but if he gets to the point where he can't (or can't understand whether the other person is consenting) then it becomes an issue of possible sexual assault. I didn't read this as anyone trying to stop this man from having sex but rather that they needed to make sure he was having safe sex which it sounds like he might need help to do due to his cognitive problems. Not so long ago the nursing home would likely have banned this man from any sort of relationship. The fact that the SW was calling his legal guardian (and that's the only way the adult child would be giving permission for anything) to make sure dad was having safe sex says they support a healthy sex life for the residents.

  4. @Buckeye : there is no "outrage"! That is your own dirty lens. Just awkwardness, as there usually is in these discussions.

  5. The idea that an old man is still interested in sex is because he’s “needy” seems questionable. Not that we aren’t all “needy” to one degree or another.

  6. @Peter Silverman Quite. Thank you for pointing that out. It is sad how the writer seemed to be ashamed of her father's normal need for warmth and connection, but perhaps reflects our cultural norms which idealise independence. l

  7. @Peter Silverman Needy is a fair characterization, and may even be generous to explain the father's many infidelities. Were your spouse unfaithful, what words would you use to describe them? Needy? Or worse?

  8. @Peter Silverman Well, I'd say a life habit of routinely cheating on one's spouse reveals a bit of selfishness, at the least.

  9. This was hysterical and made my day. Thank you so much for this essay. Happy Valentines Day!

  10. @Sara I felt the same 😁

  11. As an older person with an adult daughter, I found the author's attitudes frightening. I'm saddened, not at all amused. There is nothing funny here whatsoever.

  12. @Sara - A Seinfeld episode with George and his parents?

  13. Aren't we talking about two adults? Why is it shocking that two elderly human beings seek comfort and pleasure? As long as it is consensual on both sides the writer should be grateful that her father still has the will to pursue emotional and physical desires. Who is being harmed?

  14. @Nenuphar : the author did not imply it was either inappropriate for her father to be sexually active nor that anyone would be harmed: only that the discussion would be embarrassing for her. Many do not care to discuss sex with their parents. The issue of consent becomes very difficult when cognitive impairment is involved.

  15. @Amanda Why is she involved at all in her father's intimate life?

  16. @Amanda - Why did she need to discuss it with him at all? All she had to do was give permission to the social worker to supply protection. This whole essay rather baffles me.

  17. Of all the ridiculous things to worry about. You should be ecstatic that this is a positive indicator about his health status.

  18. Why is it any of her business? Why is it "cringeworthy" that her father wants to have sex? Why does she find it "brutally awkward" to talk to her kids about sex? Sex is a normal, pleasurable, sometimes even joyful part of life. I wonder why the author finds the thought of her kids and father taking part makes her so uncomfortable.

  19. @Glen Ridge Girl - I don't think the author has a problem with the idea of her kids (eventually) or her father (theoretically) having sex. It's the inter-generational talk that is so uncomfortable.

  20. @Glen Ridge Girl Exactly! None of her business AT ALL!

  21. @Glen Ridge Girl That was my take. Ms. Zapalac seems to lack empathy and emotional maturity. I'm surprised so many readers found this amusing.

  22. Here's a revelation on this fine Valentine's day: older people still think about and engage in sex. Whether it's with others, something most of us would ideally prefer, or as a singleton, it's a very necessary part of life. The fact that the writer wanted to "dry heave" when she heard about her father's sexual escapades and desires, is part of the problem we older people face when wanting to engage in sex, or merely talk about it. It's time we, as a culture, start talking about sex in a less puritanical way and understand that desire doesn't disappear simply because we all age. In fact, it's a stunningly helpful ingredient to a healthy and happy life. The act of lovemaking, or simply having an orgasm is extraordinarily beneficial to all of us, no matter what age you are.

  23. @Pamela L. Very true. But she also found it excruciating to discuss sex with her kids. She clearly has some serious problems with sexuality in general.

  24. @Glen Ridge Girl The author says sex and other uncomfortable topics were never discussed in her parents’ home. This was true for many Boomers. It’s not surprising she would be uncomfortable discussing it with her father.

  25. @Lawyermom This is true, which is why it shouldn't be any of her business.

  26. I was struck by the author’s issue with the fact that her 80-something father had only known this woman a few weeks. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. I mean...time’s a wastin’!

  27. @Bunnifer If it's okay for the kids to have "hook up" dates, what's wrong with the old folks having a go?

  28. Being elderly does not mean becoming asexual. I hope that the next time the nursing home calls the author that she says "of course, supply him with condoms and make sure he understands how to use them." Then she can go have "the talk" if she believes he lacks cognitive capacity to give consent to sex.

  29. @Margareta I don't understand why the facility would consult her at all. Why is this her business?

  30. @Margareta I work with older adults and we provide condoms freely. I don't see why that phone call needed to be made.

  31. @Glen Ridge Girl It IS hard to understand why a facility would disclose this information in the absence of a guardianship situation. I guess I was so busy negatively reacting more to the tone of the author I didn't think about this part.

  32. The only outrage here is that a man who has lived a long life had to have his child consulted about whether he can "have" contraception. Well, that and the urge to "dry heave" simply because you've learned he's sexually active. There is a reason the elderly are fed up with the way they are treated. This was disturbing on multiple levels. None of them the ones the author intended.

  33. @AhBrightWings Maybe theory heaves can be explained by this sentence--- I have muddled memories of my parents’ closed-door arguments about my father’s extracurricular activities with other women

  34. @AhBrightWings Agreed. TMI. Private stuff and respect for privacy.

  35. @AhBrightWings I agree. I was taken aback on reading that the author felt the urge to "dry heave."

  36. Ms. Zapalac, I am 80, basically healthy and have all my marbles. I think you should get ready to, as you wrote, "hold back [your] my urge to dry heave". Guess what my lovely wife and I did last night? Ageist much?.

  37. I sincerely hope my husband and I are still at it when we are 80. Sir, you have my respect and my congratulations.

  38. @Whoever Ageism is rampant in our country. I was treated with incredible respect in Mexico - a land that reveres its elders. What gives with the U.S.? (I am almost 80).

  39. You say your father gave consent for you to write this article about him a few breaths after you stated that he had cognitive difficulties. Is it fair of you to expose his sex life to the scrutiny of the world?

  40. @Marguerte C. Strolle I wondered about that, too, until I remembered that in these days, in popular culture and mass media, letting one's hair down has been extended to one's family and friends in the name of "openess".

  41. @Marguerte C. Strolle Omigod. Did New Yorkers loose all sense of humor? What about future generations? I'm glad I west of the Rockies. Even our coyotes laugh.

  42. Who was he going to get pregnant?

  43. @John Mardinly the issue is not pregnancy, it's an STD. Older adults have been and are one of the fastest growing populations to transmit STD's. They can't get pregnant, so figure they don't need protection.

  44. @John Mardinly Pregnancy wasn't the issue. STDs was.

  45. @John Mardinly : No one is worried about pregnancy. It's the STDs and UTIs, the latter being potentially as lethal as the former at this age.

  46. Guess I'll have to die at home, alone if need be. Because under no circumstances will I be convinced that my children should be making calls like that.

  47. @Kate Baptista Well, better hope your cognitive faculties remain intact.

  48. Where is the medical staff - doctor and nurses? The could routine and mandatory health education seminars for residents. Call up medical schools, nursing schools, public health schools - work on health education projects for different targeted age groups.

  49. @Yolanda Perez Most people would be surprised to know that most assisted living facilities don't have doctors, nurses, or even medical assistants. For liability protection, they rely on family consent and written orders from doctors to dispense medications and even very common over-the-counter creams. Of course, full nursing care units do have those professionals, at least once in a while. Your idea that there should be speakers to address sexual health is an excellent one, but without a doctor's order, they probably won't offer sexual health advice or dispense condoms.

  50. @Yolanda Perez Her father doesn't need medical staff intervening in his personal business....this isn't a medical issue. He's an adult, he's not a minor child, and as far as we know, he has not been deprived of his right to make decisions by any court order.

  51. Let's not judge the author - every family is complicated. Knowing how hard it can be to talk about money with your parents, how many of us would truly be comfortable talking to a parent about their sexuality and the need to prevent transmission of disease while enjoying an important part of life. Look up the CDC statistics if you don't think that the nursing home's concern is a legitimate health issue. Health considerations are easy...wait until the two adults involved both have significant cognitive decline and/or living spouses.

  52. @mary I don’t judge the author on her discomfort because, as you say, every family is different. I do judge her for her use of the phrase “dry heave” in this context, and most of all I have absolutely no idea why she would write and publish this. Apparently in addition to her discomfort with the topic she thinks hers is a normal reaction that, for some reason, people want to read about. There’s absolutely zero substance here. Not a meaningful discussion of STD prevention in the elderly, or the topic of consent among people with cognitive impairments. Not even a amusing entertaining read. Only sad disgust for the private life of an elderly parent.

  53. @mary I agree that it would be uncomfortable the discuss sex with a parent. What I would do is tell the caller from the nursing facility that his sex life is up to him and his partner(s).

  54. If that was my father I would be so proud and hopeful for the same energy at that age. Leave him alone

  55. @Jorge Romero many wives and daughters tend to have a desire to control their elderly husband or father. My sisters did the same to my dad. I, on the other hand, made arrangements for him to have massages and even brought home a lady who came over just to be hugging (or whatever) him for a couple of hours. Yes, I paid for that and I will always remember his sweet smile afterwards. The man was 80 years old and he was in a bed 24/7, but he was not dead yet. We all need human contact, and it's just a Puritan mentality that thinks it is wrong. I never told my sisters as they would never understand.

  56. Being analytical, I would construct a decision tree. The first node would be the probability of whether his partner had an STD. The next would be the probability of whether he engaged in an activity that would result in him acquiring an STD ("first base", for example, wouldn't cause worry; you might have to construct several branches, some of which would at his age be impossible for him to perform). Finally, there are a number of diseases which might take years to have an impact, and the effects would be far from life threatening. The result might be an expected value that whose value would be much less negative than the discomfort you would both feel from having this discussion. So you won't have to bring up the subject at all!

  57. @Stephen This decision tree needs to be made AFTER being educated on STD, its different impact on women vs. men, and the elderly. 1) You have left out that the father may have an STD and that he should be protecting his partners (and partners' future partners...) 2) "years to have an impact"? There are a number of disease in which the Impact is not years away. 3) This decision tree is of a selfish person. Where does the health of the partner and the community fit in ?

  58. Just curious about the branches, activities, and the comment, “some of which, at his age, he wouldn’t be able to perform.” Is he swinging from these branches?

  59. @DW if the father already has an STD, then he should be treated, not just use a condom. Another option here is for the nursing home to provide sti testing for residents. It's interesting to me that this wouldn't be done because if both partners do not have STIs, condoms aren't needed at this age. And the child can stay out of it.

  60. I haven't had to address that issue because my father is 96 and not active that way, but I can empathize. I'm trying to care for him from two states away. He wants to stay in his own home without ready access to transportation or nutritious food, and is subject to a degree of risk (from falling) that makes the rest of us cringe. It's his decision, and I respect it, but I also don't have the authority or desire to force him to do something different. So I patch together a support network as best as I can and visit once a month for several days. I pay all of his bills, keep his car away from the house, and make sure he has enough two-buck Chuck. His friends look out for him, too, and I think I've finally driven off most of the phone and internet scammers. Those that remain get an earful from him. But his cognitive abilities continue to decline and I know it's just a matter of time. The last thing he would need right now is yet another health challenge of the type you fear, so I can see why you are concerned.

  61. @Greg W Thank you for your honest assessment of your family situation. You are not alone and I feel your pain. My in-laws are 90 and 83. He has some major health issues (can't walk and on oxygen tanks) and her dementia is spiraling out of control. They insist on living on their own. My husband and I are also trying our best to walk that fine line (feels like a tightrope) between giving them the autonomy they desire and sleepless nights worrying about their safety. (There have been falls). Watching him get into his chair that takes him down the stairs is cringe-worthy indeed. I have to look away. We put most of their bills on auto-pay and monitor their accounts. We also have hired a home health aide that comes in and cooks and cleans twice a week. (A luxury that few can afford). Unlike you, we are only an hour or so away, so we visit 2x/week and take care of things (ripping up all of the mail scams that prey on the elderly). What else can you do if they insist on being independent? It's very frustrating and, again, I empathize with you and wish you all of the best for you and your father.

  62. @Greg W I live in France and the government has an extensive program to provide free services for those who choose to live alone. They have care facilities, of course, when necessary. Those who are cared for at home are visited every day or so as needed. France has calculated that this service is less expensive that a care facility plus those who are assisted are happier in their own home.

  63. @Frankster Sigh...another example of rational, caring and full coverage health care access in first world countries. The US is a second world country when it comes to health care.

  64. A delightful and charming article. Thank you. I just forwarded it to my daughter and indicated that this 87 year old guy awaits her commentary and advice. In these Trumpian times it's wonderful to be reminded of the wonderful and also to have some help forgetting the distresses. Thanks for the dose of laughter.

  65. Let the man enjoy the last few years of his life the way he wants. Stacey needs to realize that her father has the ability, desire and energy to perform this essential and vital part of active life. I say more power to the seniors of this country.

  66. @howard cohn Her problem isn't that her dad has a sexuality, her problem is that his cognitive decline makes her privy to it (as well as the staff and other residents of the facility, in a context where dementia may reduce inhibitions). Would you really want to deal with your dad causing a herpes epidemic - or worse- at the local nursing home?

  67. "...received a phone call from my father’s skilled nursing facility..." Bottom line, her father is in a place where he requires skilled nursing care as do the other people who are in that facility. This is not an over-55 or independent living situation where folks can and do make their own decisions. Socialization and genuine affection is one thing, but the last thing the nursing staff and elderly women (short or long term) need is some old man making sexual advances that may well not be welcomed. I had a friend whose father was exhibiting similar behavior and while I, at the time, thought it was it was no big deal, she said the reality was no laughing matter and it had become an issue. I think the author handled with the best sense of humor she could.

  68. @Jenna they didn't ask her how to deal with an unruly patient. They asked if it was ok to give him condoms. This means they have already determined he isn't a threat to anyone or they would not be asking. If he was making unwanted advances they would have talked to her about that.

  69. @Jenna : oh, her dad was "exhibiting similar behavior" or was he just a human being trying to continue to live as a free human being? Why should it be seen as "humorous"?

  70. @Jenna Aggressive sexual behavior in a nursing care or dementia care is not a laughing matter.

  71. I'm soon 87 and will be copying this essay to my daughter, with the advice to just say NO if this question is posed.

  72. @kozarrj : I'll soon be 80 and will copy this to my son with instructions that if this situation arises to just say yes.

  73. @kozarrj why deny yourself even a temporary happiness though? Especially since the staff may not be able to prevent it, but can only end up preventing safe sex.

  74. I don't understand what the big deal is.Dad's lady friend is not going to get pregnant, and if either of them is wearing diapers, the romance probably isn't going anywhere. The real issue is about the opinion of the lady friend. I'd be wondering about the lady friend's mental condition more than the dad's. One mental break on her part, and the dad can end up in court for assault.

  75. @Glenda This may be about protection from some other transmittable problems, not pregnancy.

  76. @Glenda Sexually transmitted infections are an issue in older populations.

  77. @Glenda Seniors are one of the groups with a relatively high incidence of STDs, including HIV and herpes. I don't see why he should be kept from having sex. It is not as if he has time for a long courting.

  78. The people who don't feel awkward about any of this, and who always had very open communication with their parents about human life, might suddenly feel like they better keep it to themselves.

  79. An available male resident in a 'skilled nursing facility.' Now that's a hot commodity.

  80. @Astrid Yes, it is. I found that out before my dad died. My dad didn't show -- or have -- any interest, though. Although my mom died a couple of years before he did, his attachment to her was final.

  81. @Astrid My mother was living in an independent living facility, one of a zillion women and very, very few men. She had always loved being married, and it did not surprise me when the one widower there felt the same about her as she did about him. When he died, after a several-years long relationship (about which I have zero details), she mourned him as deeply as she did my father, who had died almost 50 years before, when she was only 34. Love is love, and I'm glad she had it to enjoy almost to the end. She had cognitive impairments for sure, but they did not prevent her from loving a partner, not one bit.

  82. @Astrid : I've clocked a lot of time in nursing homes, Assisted Living, dementia units in the last 8 years -- due to several elderly relatives. The proportion of men to women is like 15 to 1. There are men, but far fewer of them. And most of them still have living wives, as the wives are often younger (and women live longer). The pickings are about as slim as can be imagined. If you are a woman and live past 85….and your spouse passes away….you have very little chance of finding ANY male companionship. The numbers just aren't there. I'll bet my last nickel the ladies involved here with Mr. Zapalac are thrilled to get his attentions! and are the envy of all the other ladies in the nursing home! I'd have preferred to read an article written about THEM!

  83. I loved this and it gave me a little chuckle. Life is meant to be lived, so go for it, safely.

  84. I really love this piece: the honesty, the history, the conflict between freedom and confinement, the caregivers, the desires (however conflicted), and all in such a short space. The moment? Now. The memories? Forever (we hope). So beautifully written. Here's my advice (full disclosure, I know a lot about memory). The call begins with your dad, and however he gave into life's constraints, one that you mention is that relationships were exploratory. And as he travels through the rest of his years, it will always be so. If the other party (a woman) and he connect for a moment, for months, or for years, he lives beyond the confines. Seems like relationships in the past also disinterested him with boundaries others, like your mom, expected and deserved. Now that's where he is, unable to do very much without help, your role in his life becomes friend, adult child, or jailer.... if you know he is hurting no one, then you're enabling nothing other than the expression of self, however flawed. In that support, there is grace. And if someone thinks he is beautiful, then there is beauty, too.

  85. My father-in-law, in his early 80s & after his wife of more than 60 years died, moved into an assisted living facility. There he met another resident, a woman of about his age but very different than my late mother-in-law. He asked his urologist for ED pills, but the doc said no, because of my father-in-law's other medical issues. So with a buddy's help, he ordered some sort of vacuum assist device. Don't know if he ever used it, didn't feel we should ask, but we do know the relationship gave him a few last happy years at the end of his life. The author needs to get over herself and let her father be happy.

  86. there's always a reason people put stuff down in writing. the author wrote about her father's past behavior for a reason. to me it was clear that the guy was unfaithful and bought a good share of misery to her mother and family. now the author is being asked to enable the same behavior that had been a thorn in her mother's life - a guy jumping from woman to woman. to me the article is not about geriatric venereal diseases or geriatric sex; it is about that twist of fate. if the guy is in his 80s then the author is at least in her 40s, meaning that her cringing has more to do with her relationship with her father than an adult s response to one of the most basic physiologic thing in humans.

  87. I quite agree. The author needs to get over her repressed sexual attitudes and let her father have what remaining happiness he can muster. Contraceptives are necessary to guard against STDs. Let him enjoy himself. What is the author afraid of? He might have fun? He could start a family? How much time does he have left. You want him to “save” himself for a more “serious “ relationship?

  88. I'm reminded of a (Canadian) film in which Julie Christie played a woman who, at a relatively young age, developed dementia. Her husband, who loved her, regretfully consigned her to a nursing facility, when he could no longer care for her. Much to his dismay, she developed a (sexual) relationship with a male patient of about her age, who also had dementia. They seemed very happy together. The husband meets the wife of the male patient, whose attitue was different from his own. She was happy that her husband, in his reduced state, had found something joyous. Eventually, the husband of the Julie Christie character begins to see it that way.

  89. @Jenifer Wolf The 2006 film was "away from her" with Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. A good film dealing with an emerging issue.

  90. @Jenifer Wolf I enjoyed that movie, too. It was "Away From Her" directed by Sarah Polley.

  91. This is also the case with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s husband, who fell in love with another woman while in a nursing home.

  92. Reading the comments, I’ve seen a lot of people remarking on the fact that a pregnancy resulting from this father’s activity is basically an impossibility, and as such there is no need to worry. The truth of the matter has nothing to do with pregnancy- it has to do with the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. I think many would be agog at the frequency of this problem among the geriatric community- give it a Google, and prepare to be shocked by the statistics.

  93. @Danielle Absolutely, the very real problem here is STDs, which is why the use of the word “contraceptives” in the headline and body of the article was misleading and unhelpful.

  94. My father lived alone in my childhood home for thirteen years after my mother died. I always assumed he was intimate with the women he dated. We had to move him to a senior living facility after open heart surgery at 79. Five months later, another cardiac crisis ended his life. As my sister and I cleaned out our old house, we discovered condoms in Daddy's night table drawer. We didn't dry heave. We smiled, high-fived each other and said, "all right, Daddy!" It was a much better memory than his last days in the ICU.

  95. Unless the writer has specific legal authority over her father's choices, the facility had no business asking her to grant or deny permission. He is an adult...and has the right to make his own choices, even if they are bad ones. The facility is acting inappropriately and possibly illegally in violating his rights....this is the kind of paternalistic attitude so often visited on people with disabilities of all ages, and on old people. The only correct response to the nursing home is: "It's none of my business."

  96. @djd1950 The writer says her father has cognitive limitations. That plus him living in a facility that calls his daughter for permission indicates she does have legal authority over him. Strange so many people are overlooking that.

  97. @did 1950, What about the womans family? Should they not be informed? The author makes no mention of her cognitive condition. Is she being taken advantage of, or coerced? The facility clearly has liability concerns.

  98. @JJ : my mother had dementia and lived in an assisted care facility the last year of her life. I had her DNR and other such paperwork but NEVER had a "legal authority" over her.

  99. Why should the nurse interfere with the actions taken by an adult when that action does not harm any person?

  100. @Maita Moto Agreed. Given her father is an adult, the article could have focussed on why the nurse questioned her father's request and felt it necessary to reach out to his daughter.

  101. elderly with cognitive issues are a vulnerable population and almost always have a POA. The staff did , rightly, what they were obligated to.

  102. @Maita Moto Because with elderly cognitive decline and the associated medications for diseases like Parkinson's, behavior can be impulsive and predatory. Its good the staff is being attentive

  103. I find the writer's comments curiously old-fashioned, almost quaint. She (I may wrongly be assuming Stacey is a woman) keeps on expressing great queasiness about discussing sex, but this mostly seems to have to do with her embarrassment over the subject, neither her Dad's, nor the facilities. From the stories I've been hearing over the past dozens years or so from friends with aged parents, sex between older residents in nursing homes is quite common. Doesn't take hearing about it but a few times to realize older people enjoy sex, too. After a minor initial shock, most of us, not so young ourselves, are happy to learn sex can continue to be an enjoyable part of our lives. I didn't see an issue in the writer's story except her own discomfort with the subject. Why all the hand-wringing?

  104. My dad was in a 'good' assisted living and then nursing home facility for years with Parkinson's. Sexual abuse is very real in these places. It has nothing to do with anyone being uncomfortable with the sexuality of seniors. Cognitive and physical decline, psychotropic medications and close quarters exposure and opportunity very much complicate and undermine consent. The staff was right to watch and call. Many do not until behavior becomes a liability for them.

  105. @CNNNNC : and others have consensual relationships that are no one else's business.

  106. My mother was a dietician in a nursing home for years. This isn't even a problem. By the time a patient gets into a home, they have had all the necessary bloodwork to determine if they have an STD. I remember my mom chuckling when they would open the door of a room and find a man and a woman in bed together. They would simply say, you need to go back to your room, and that was that. She told me many stories of elderly patients, some shark as a tack, and some not, holding hands in a love seat, or eating next to each other in the cafeteria. She said some of the older patients were quite vexed with the staff for even mentioning their behavior. The would inform family that a friendship with a person of the opposite sex was ongoing. The sad part is, mom always had weekends off, and when she would return to work, a room that was occupied, would be empty, and all the personal belongings of the occupant would have been removed. Mom genuinely missed those who passed away without her saying goodbye to them. This is a strange article. I met some of the "couples" as a team, and they provided warmth and evoked the same feelings as younger people. My mother said, even those with dementia, still retained their personalities, often until their demise. I can tell you the staff knew what was going on, but were so caring, it didn't matter to them. Some patients even went out on "dates" on the bus to certain events. Humans at any age need to feel they are still alive.

  107. Three men who are running to lead our country will be 80 something in their first term. Congress is led by two in their late 70’s . It appears chronological age has little relationship to cognitive abilities, or is 80 the new 50?

  108. @phebe s "It appears chronological age has little relationship to cognitive abilities, ..." Why would cognitive abilities be exempt from the physiological decline that affects all other human systems?

  109. I can only assume that the facility also contacted the woman's family to get their permission as well for contraception. Had the author's parent had been female this piece would have been written from that perspective and possibly quite different. I'd be curious to see the difference in the reader's comments if that were the case.

  110. @Rob D I would have the exact same comment: it's none the daughter's business.

  111. My mother was in her 90's when dementia forced her to move to an assisted living facility for the last year of her life. While living there, she met a man of about her age, and they became a couple. NO idea, nor do I need to know, exactly what the relationship became or consisted of. I know they shared a lot of time in his private room. NOT up to me or anyone else to "police" the relationship between adults, (even though both had memory issues).

  112. It is a funny article. A bit cringey but funny. As other commenters have suggested, if your dad has cognitive issues, he can't credibly consent to you discussing his sex life in a national publication. On the other hand, if he is cognitively intact, it isn't clear what business you have deciding whether he has access to contraception. In either case, the purpose of the contraception ( I am assuming) is disease prevention and the SNF should have provided him with the necessary protection immediately--just as they would have provided a mask or gloves if dad's companion had the flu. Your permission not required.

  113. It is been told of Pablo Casals at 80, informing his doctor of his intention to marry 21 year old Marta (AKA Martita), his gifted student. His doctor allegedly cautioned him of health consequences of such a union, to which Casals allegedly responded : " if she dies, she dies ".

  114. My widowed FIL was a busy man late in life. It wasn't because he suddenly found women more attractive, it was because he was lonely and cognitive decline made him less reserved. His lady friends enjoyed the flirting and as for whatever else went on, none of us thought it was any of our business.

  115. The tone of this is so strange. The thought that she, a grown woman, has about her father, a more than grown man, having sex is to “dry heave”? I’m assuming she’s not sixteen years old? This was patronizing under the guise of humor. It made me very sad.

  116. Yes, people in skilled nursing facilities get sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. This puts an added burden on the care of someone who is already medically complicated. And yes it is appropriate for the facility to discuss the sexual health of a person under their care with the family member that has Power of Attorney for Health Care for that individual. And yes people over eighty have healthy libidos. God bless them.

  117. What is the issue? Let them be. There is no downside.

  118. Is Father clinically and legally incompetent? If not, why did Nursing call Child? Why did Child get involved? Violation of patient autonomy. Even if Father is not fully capable of consenting to medical treatment and Child thus has a role in his care, Father may still be capable of initiating and engaging in legitimately consensual sex. Was Nursing concerned about sexually transmitted disease? If so, why not just provide Father with condoms? (It seems as though these are available to be provided.) What harm would be done by that? Why involve Child? With all due respect to Child, why get involved in this last area of parental autonomy and adult activity? And then, even if Father (who apparently has “some cognitive issues”) seems to consent to it, why disclose the whole story for national and international prurient consumption? How does this benefit Father? How is this consistent with Child’s fiduciary role, and how is is not self-benefiting and even exploitive? With all due respect to Nursing, this sounds like a situation of misplaced puritanism and even disapproval of this perfectly normal, desirable sexual activity. The correct Nursing approach is to uphold patient autonomy and self-determination to the greatest extent possible under each circumstance. Then, if it is judged essential to intervene, to do so with lowest possible curtailment of patient autonomy and confidentiality. This story is not uplifting in my view. I suggest it is a Nursing and Child fail.

  119. Teaching internet dating to other seniors and a serial internet dater myself doesn't qualify me as an expert but what I've learned is romance, sex, and intimacy is not limited by age. Why the need to infantilize us? Laugh, or think we're cute? Why are people shocked that we remain virile, seductive, and interested? One man I know, in his eighties swims naked in the ocean--he posted a discreet photo of his swim on his Match site. A 92 year old man and I are in active communication--He's willing to drive 60+ miles into the city to meet me. An 85 year old woman recently took my class. She complained that after being on line six months she had only meet two men--she goes out with them regularly but there aren't any sparks--Seniors in my classes are savvy, sexy and eager. Granted, in assisted living facilities , hyper-sexuality and acting out can be a sign of increasing dementia--I spent 3 months in a nursing facility with a debilitating illness ten years ago--a disoriented resident leaped into my bed and it took two orderlies to dislodge him- However, unless the nurse was trying a subtle way to alert Ms. Zapalac that her father had a problem--that conversation was singularly inappropriate and a warning of how the staff perceives residents. More appropriate would be more information to residents on STD's and free condoms. My most important take-away from class, When it comes to sex we're all adults, no matter where we live, aren't we entitled to the same considerations?

  120. Older adults, including those in facities--even more importantly, those in such facilities--have sexual feelings. I got the feeling this daughter, who clearly loves her father, is infantalizing her dad, or at worst, "medicalizing" his condition. I've heard that we just become more like ouselves the older we get. Assuming the truth of this, then the daugher shouldn't have been so surprised, or even embarrassed, by his leanings. I hope she comes to accept this fact about her father, and doesn't come across as judgmental--he'll sense it. God knows he's likely not too happy there, and maybe some reciprocated attention is just what the doctor ordered.

  121. @ChristineMcM I think most readers would dispute your assumption that the author 'clearly loves her father'!

  122. Why is it that when our parents reach a certain age, we tend to treat them like children? Your father is still interested in life. Rejoice. More power to him (yes, i am aware of the pun).

  123. It was 1978 and I was a bookkeeper at a nursing home, to help finance my college education. The nursing home had a special room with an "occupied" card on the door, reserved for trists for romantic partners, which happens more frequently that one would expect who has not yet reached elder years. Of course this was before the full advent of aids and growth of STD's among all sexually active partners. Just the same, respect was shown, privacy was given, along with nurses who were available for consulting if one of the couple wished to discuss their concerns. Even with this open acknowledgment of romance and pleasure as a human right there were also raised eyebrows, gossip, and envy, but I have to say, this was a warm and kind and lively experiment that seemed to make for more happiness than had coupling been denied. Just to say, I think this written piece was meant as a comical reminder of the first time a daughter is being asked to think of her dad as (gasp) a sexual man and in late years at that. In any case, it was a sweet Valentine to include this story for your readers to enjoy. Thanks.

  124. Elderly people can be sexual beings and deserve equal rights and opportunities to have control over, choices about, and access to their sexuality, sexual expression, and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives. They do not need the consent of anyone else, certainly not their child to validate or approve of this essential human right. I found this article and the perspective it espoused lacking in honoring this man's basic human right to have agency over a healthy and private aspect of his relationships.

  125. I really don't understand the infantalazing of the elderly in this country. Yes, there are circumstances where adult children need to help with decisions. But, the father here is a grown adult and while he should have a recap on sexually transmitted diseases, why would he need permission to use contraceptives or to have sex? I felt it was none of my parents" business if I had sex in college and I don't think it's my business if they do now.

  126. I am surprised that the facility is not prepared to discuss this issue with patients.

  127. I'm not sure why you use the word contraceptives in the title rather than some word that can talk about the range of methods to protect against STDs. If you mean "condoms" they dont work agains all agents btw or are often used incorrectly even by people with experience. Mutual testing is another toolkit item, if it comes to that.

  128. Yes, the issue of adult children being asked to "discuss" with elderly parents potential consequences of sexual activity and what protection to use seems both humorous and appropriate karma for those of us who experienced sex with the expectations and values of the 1960's. As it turns out human reproductive organs don't just disappear as one ages. I remember the unlucky congressman whose father kept getting arrested for soliciting prostitutes as he aged. Fortunately he was a Republican congressman so his constituents were angry at the newspapers who publicized the incidents of the father wandering into dangerous areas. On a more serious note, there are actual issues with reproductive organs and one's aging parents that get very little attention. Once parents live in "assisted living" their access to health care can be interrupted; this is not true of skilled nursing care usually. As a "boomer" most of the men of my generation seem to have been circumcised shortly after birth. I was well over 65 before I became aware my father and most of his generation seem not to have been circumcised. This led to a serious health problem for my father which the man from Ethiopia who gave my father daily showers (for which we paid extra) was kind enough to explain to me. The young women who had been giving my father showers were not trained to spot this issue. Once the condition was explained, medical treatment was done. Just one of the health issues to face with aging parents.

  129. Ms. Zapalac - Pushing 80 myself, I suspect your father can't bear it that he is in a nursing home that requires him to ask your permission for a contraceptive. He is an 80 year old with his own life.. Having just been in a "skilled nursing facility", a short term horror show to put it mildly - due to a leg fracture - I hope to do everything possible to avoid a nursing home. There are many creative alternatives in many states. I suggest you work for one in yours. Put yourself in his shoes as you'll be in similar shoes yourself one day - if you make it to 80.

  130. It's unclear from the article if the author's father is suffering from any cognitive deficits. If he isn't, it's degrading and a shocking invasion of privacy for the facility to share this info with his daughter, much less ask for her to give permission for him to get condoms. He's an adult man and entitled to some dignity & respect. If the nursing home is concerned about his capacity to engage safely in an intimate relationship or have concerns about his prospective partner, they should address those concerns directly with her father. I would think a trained social worker or medical professional would be able to take this on. And I don't see why the author felt it was relevant to share the details of her parents' marital difficulties. Another invasion of privacy. The author is clearly embarrassed at the thought of having this conversation with her father, and understandably so. Can she imagine how humiliating it must be to be the subject of that conversation, much less to have these details aired in a newspaper? Advanced age does not strip one of the need for intimacy, or the right to have those needs taken seriously. To cope with her own embarrassment the author made the intimate details of her father's life a sit-com punch line. Shame on her.

  131. Many comments have indicated that it is reasonable to consider and openly discuss issues related to consensual sex and and the need for prophylaxis in older adults when there are concerns about cognition and impulsivity. That would have been a useful article for the NYT to publish. Instead we got a condescending, spiteful adolescent-level snit written by a daughter that in my opinion has some unresolved anger issues with her father. References to her own "urge to dry heave", a "clearly mortified" social worker (not likely), and "my dad was a needy man" mostly point to a need to humiliate, not to provide advice for an awkward but necessary discussion. Finally, he may have "consented to my writing about this" but I doubt he would have consented to having his privacy exploited in this way. In my opinion, it is the daughter who has engaged in shameful behavior.

  132. It's difficult and heartbreaking to deal with failing elderly parents. But the author, possibly due partly to caretaker burnout, has some antiquated views on sexuality. Granted, the father discussed apparently has some cognitive deficits. Bit older people are often viewed as redundant and ridiculous for having normal human needs or desires.

  133. All I can say is, good for him. And to the writer, lighten up. Your dad, whatever his other faults might be, is a vital human in a place that usually strips you of vitality.

  134. As The Great Sage Berra once solemnly intoned, catcher’s mask askew, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” And I’m a good example of that at 79+ as my girlfriend of 52 years, just 73 can attest. Now where are those skis?

  135. I’ll never forget the last time I saw my grandmother before her death from Alzheimer’s. I went to visit her in the nursing home, and she was there with her boyfriend of several months. She didn’t remember me, but we had a delightful conversation about her boyfriend. She coyly told me she was 16. They were clearly crazy about each other, snuggling and kissing. And the last moment I laid eyes on her, they were walking down the hall hand in hand, swinging their arms. She may have been senile, but she was obviously consenting to the relationship and obviously it was making her happy. Why deny someone the pleasure of human companionship and human sexuality in the last months of their life? Humans are, in general, innately sexual. We’re sexual as children, we are sexual as teens, we are sexual as adults, and we are sexual in our old age. Items 1, 2, and 4 on that list can cause people a whole lot of discomfort, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I hope I’m still flirty like my grandma when I’m 95.

  136. The best thing about this article, other than reminding us that senior citizens should not be chastised or dry-heaved over having sex at any age, is that we need a different word than "contraceptive," since pregnancy was almost certainly not the issue at hand here.

  137. @Paul in NJ Contraceptive actually just seems wrong here, no? Contraceptives = for the prevention of pregnancy, no?

  138. This is one of the saddest pieces addressing the challenges of elder care that I've ever read. "Dry heave", "cringeworthy", sardonic, juvenile humor that doesn't just border on disrespectful, but dives right in? Yes, there's irony in the role reversal grown children face with aging parents. Sure, there's much room for humor in that role reversal, but Zapalac's essay just reads as ugly circumscription of her father's humanity and a thinly veiled attack on a vulnerable person. Not funny at all, not sensitive, not caring, not cool. More than a consideration of the issue of sexuality in the elderly, this piece only makes plain the issues this writer has with her father, his infidelities and the baggage she still carries forward. If the writer can't address all the aspects of her father's care respectfully and with a good heart, maybe ask a sibling to step in where you have shortcoming, enlist staff to talk with your father about the important issues in sexual health and get yourself into counseling and a caregiver support group. Don't parade repulsion and prudishness as a humor piece. I do look forward to the commentary from older readers and hope they take Zapalac to task for this sorry essay. Now that should be humorous.

  139. There is too much left unexplained in this piece, such as whether the author had legal authority to direct her father's care or whether there was something about the father's relationship with his lady friend that raised concerns that one or the other partner might somehow be harmed (physically, emotionally, financially, etc.) if the relationship progressed to sex. But more than anything this piece just seems to reflect that the author was creeped out by the thought of her father being in a sexual relationship in his 80s (with an overlay of worry about how her deceased mother would feel about the whole thing). I think the author needs to get over it.

  140. Kudos to the facility for being observant and calling the author. But I am more concerned about the daughter than the father here. She feels the urge to “dry heave” at the mention of her father having sex. “Rounding third base”, “scoring a home run”, “cringeworthy” that Dad wants to have sex seem somewhat “teenage” ageist expressions and reactions to very natural and common phenomena. Perhaps a visit with a therapist to discuss her own attitudes about sex would help her be less judgmental of him and more comfortable and equitable in her decision to allow or withhold contraception. .

  141. This essay is profoundly ageist. The writer would have us believe that the problem is "what's wrong with my father that he wants to have sex?" The real problem is her reaction. He has-- apparently-- always been somewhat promiscuous. His prospective partners appear to be responsive, if hampered by length-of-stay problems. In terms of nursing home sex, some folks have been tumbling in bed with each other in nursing homes for time immemorial. While nursing home staff have a duty to make sure that genuinely cognitively impaired residents are not victimized, this does not mean they can badger people about sex just because they are old. That is, in fact, the essence of ageism. It is difficult to tell whether her reference to cognitive difficulties is objective or simply a pejorative jab. If the author thinks he can give consent for the article, it is hard to see him as incompetent. The few glimpses we get of him do not sound impaired. One suspects that the social worker's problem was dealing with the daughter-- not the residents.

  142. Unless Dad has been determined by a Court to be incompetent and the son has been appointed his guardian, everyone should get out of Dad’s business.

  143. I don't understand what is going on here. Why did the social worker call the author to ask for her permission for her father to have sexual relations? An 80 year old man is an adult, not a minor child. Unless a court has determined that he is no longer capable of making these kinds of decisions for himself it is his decision, not his daughter's.

  144. My first question is... why has the facility contacted the author in the first place. Does she have a medical POA or has he consented to sharing his medical info with his child in the first place. If not the facility may well have overstepped its legal bounds re HIPAA and the issue should have been handled directly between the facility and the father/patient. I'm sniffing a lot here that's troubling me. Why is the social worker making this call, and not the medical staff? I'll grant that we don't have all the facts here...but absent presenting the full facts here, why did the author even feel compelled to involve the Times readership in this issue other perhaps than in seeking support for her own priggish smugness and feigned outrage at her clear disapproval of her dad's behavior and her own seeming unresolved issues over his sexual expression which clearly predate this immediate incident.

  145. Given that adults with cognitive impairment live at this facility, I would be concerned about the female partners' ability to consent to sexual activity.

  146. How sad for the author's father that his daughter thinks of him in such harsh, unempathic and compassionless terms. Her frame of reference about sex seems not to have developed after she completed 10th grade. 3rd base? I hope her own family has more compassion for her when she reaches 80.

  147. Where to begin? First the writer's antiquated prudish language in reference to sensuality: "having the 'talk'." "repressing the urge to dry heave," "kissing and heavy petting," "rounding third base and wanting to hit a home run," "cringeworthy," "brutally awkward," to cite a few. Is she ten years old? Raised in a convent? I've known Catholic nuns with more sexual sense than that. She writes that she knows her dad's behavior would have brought her mother "crippling shame," yet she says they argued and her mother remained married for all her childhood and decades beyond until her death. Maybe her mother did feel shame, but she dealt with it in her own way. The writer seems unable to perceive of sensual love as little more than primitive - barely tolerated - brutal copulation. I have news. One -two - can share extensive, fulfilling amorous liaisons with no need for condoms or fear of STDs. I shudder to think how the writer would have reacted had she discovered her father was dating MEN! I fear for this woman, and her children. Dad can take care of himself. For the record, I'm male, 86 years old, the plumbing works and it needs to function like any other function of healthy bodies. We're not dead yet.

  148. The conversation with her father can be very simple. Dad, if you're going to have sex with a female friend, you'll need to use a condom, just in case one of you has been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. I'm going to leave some here for. you, just in case you need them." I worked in an assisted living facility for the last 18 year of my nursing career. There were several times when my female patients asked me questioned about becoming sexually involved with male residents. It's more common that people realize.

  149. The fate of too many elderly men in institutions is to be involuntarily given shots of depo-provera, chemically castrating them, because it is simply easier for the staff and family.

  150. @Frank Without their permission? That couldn’t be ethical or legal.

  151. Need to catch up with my retired buddy from work,he lost his wife and folded for a few years,was supposed to get his hearing aids from the VA Feb 13.Iknow his daughter would love to get a call from him feeling as spry as this guy.This guy should give blood,know players who are in retirement 15 years younger than Romeo.

  152. Am I missing something here? Why in God's name would anyone in a senior living facility need contraceptives? No one is going to get pregnant, right?

  153. @Marie S There is an epidemic of STDs amongst this demographic of sexually active adults. The condoms are to minimize risk of STD transmission, not to prevent pregnancy.

  154. None of us WANT to make those decisions for our parents. If you never end up there, just know - you’ve dodged a bullet.

  155. I was shocked when I read that the writer denied protection to her father before meeting the woman. The result will be unprotected sex. And by the way who cares. Let them be safe and enjoy life. We will all hopefully be old one day and still interested in sex.

  156. Any adult who talks about sex in terms of "rounding third base" and "scoring home runs" obviously has serious problems with talking about sex openly. Wonder what in the world the author told her kids, aside from emphasizing the ravages of STDs.

  157. How wonderful it is that your father is enjoying life to it’s fullest! How infuriating it is that you had to be consulted by the idiotic social worker about his contraceptive needs. She needs some remedial courses. Guess what, kiddo. Many people want and enjoy sex to the very end of their lives. It should not make you gag for heavens’ sake. You should be happy for him. Imagine how lonely it is for many elderly people in assisted living and nursing homes. It’s great that the ladies gather ‘round. You should hope that you’re vital and sexy into your later years too. I can understand teenagers not wanting to know too much about their parents’ sex lives. They’re still figuring out how romantic relationships work. They’re not comfortable with their own sexuality. When I was living at home, my parents had a lock on their bedroom door and that was their private, sacred space. I may not have known the details, but I knew they had a loving, sexual relationship. And, I knew to knock! In an emergency! You’re not a teenager. This is a conversation between two adults. Yes, he should know to protect himself. There is an uptake in STDs in senior residences. He should understand that they need to go to a private room and close the door. Even if they’re not having intercourse, it’s lovely to cuddle with a willing partner and feel the warmth of another body. Rejoice in your father’s happiness. Human affection will probably add extra time to his life. Good for him!

  158. You say, “I informed the social worker my father was not to be given protection or conjugal visit privileges until I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with him.” Imagine a man saying “My sister is not to be given protection or conjugal visit privileges until I have an opportunity to discuss this matter with her.” There is only one way the first sentence is okay but the second sentence is wrong: sexism. No woman has a right to control the sex life of a man and another consenting adult, wouldn’t you agree?

  159. @Professor Science You forgot the corollary: No man has the right to control the sex life of a woman....

  160. Dad is an adult. Even if he has limitations, he's not running out in front of a car. In the event he gets a sexually transmitted disease from some elderly lady then he can get treated. If he wants to have sexual relations, he should have condoms and freedom to enjoy his last years. The author should take Dad to a doctor and have him explain the options for safe sex if she really is this concerned. It seems like Dad is pretty experienced in this area already. Children seem really uncomfortable about their parent's sexual activities. That doesn't mean they have the right to limit their parent's sexual activities. I find it outrageous that the daughter said no.

  161. I was disappointed by this article. Was it supposed to be earnest? Sad? Profound? Funny? It was none of those for me. I cared for my mother until her death. She had sex. Not my business to judge or interfere, just help her to be safe. I don’t understand the author’s attitudes. They make me sad for her and her father.

  162. Firstly, I wonder if the author asked her father whether she could publish this article. That he has cognitive impairment does not mean he shouldn't have a say. Secondly: Yes, thinking about one's parents or one's children having sex is awkward. Yes, caring for aging patents is hard. Yet we are sexual beings, at all ages, and he is an adult. So long as there is mutual consent and there's no exploitation (key point there), then let it be. -Sheri, a geriatrician

  163. @Sheri The author explicitly states (at the end of the third to the last paragraph) that her father consented to her “writing about this.” It’s implicit he consented to that writing being published but that’s not an unimportant distinction. If he didn’t, a line of personal autonomy and privacy has been crossed.

  164. Stop treating elderly people as if they were children. If he wants to engage in a sexual relationship it's his decision. Respect his privacy and dignity.

  165. Why were you even asked about your father's contraceptive use? If is is aware and alert enough to express pleasantries and describe his love for this lady etc, then he can make his own decisions about sexual activity and wether or not to use condoms etc.

  166. How can any person possibly give permission for you to tell the private personal details of his sex life when he apparently doesn't have the mental faculty to even request over-the-counter contraceptives. This seems very condescending towards our seniors.

  167. Why does an 80 year man need the permission of his daughter to have sex? And at what age did this man lose his right to privacy? Why is it ok to publicize a private situation?

  168. @Neighbor2 The author asserts that her father consented to the publication of this piece. If the nursing home called her about giving him condoms, she likely has power of attorney and/or some kind of medical guardianship. The author does mention her father’s cognitive challenges. It does feel like a contradiction that she trusts the capacity of his cognitive abilities in the context of consenting to the publication of this article but NOT his capacity to consent to having sex. Would be wonderful if the author decides to chime in to offer more context/detail.

  169. Here is some news that some, including this author , might find shocking; the elderly have sex ! What is the most disturbing part of this article ? Is it the thought that at age 80 , I might have to ask permission from a prude to have sex ? Is it that an assisted living facility might some day treat me like a pre-teen ? Is it the notion that sex outside of having children makes non-participants want to "dry heave" ? If this article isn't ageist, I don't know what is

  170. I do not understand why the facility needed the daughter's permission. Her father is an adult, after all.

  171. I don't question a social worker calling Ms. Zapalac when her father was caught 'rounding third base' in the common area. But making the call about 'contraceptives' is silly, evasive, and calls into question the judgment and intelligence of the staff.

  172. He’s 80 years old. Kindly step out of his intimate affairs and let him find whatever consenting enjoyment he may. And STD’s?Highly unlikely cause for concern; he’s far more likely to be made miserable by his daughter’s imposing.

  173. On further thought - and discussion with my wife - this article is cruel and demeaning.

  174. How absurd that an adult would be treated like a child, needing guardian permission for condom access. This man should find a new living facility -- one more respectful of his rights.

  175. Why is such a talk "cringe-worthy"? When is the expiration date for one's sexual desire and/or activity? Use it or lose it. Physical contact releases endorphins. Elderly people die of loneliness more than STIs. I think the writer needs to grow up.

  176. This seems incredibly condescending. Why "dry heave" to think that your father might have sex? And it seems really important to think through what extent of cognitive limitations would justify the nursing home needing your permission to give him contraception. His cognitive limitations are only mentioned in a brief aside, but they seem to be the crux of the matter. As well as the cognitive functioning of his potential partner. In general, I find it offensive that there is an assumption that older adults having sex is disgusting/funny/weird/cute. Do you want your own children responding that way when you are 80?

  177. If the author's father has 'cognitive limitations' such that her permission is required for him to be sexually active, how can he possibly 'consent' to these facts being broadcast to the world? This article seems to me to be an exploitative invasion of privacy and I hope that none of my children would do anything similar.

  178. The essay is by "a Chicago based writer" who now has been published by the NYT. Was that her objective? at what price to her father? I'm 79 and am reading this in my apartment in a wonderful continuing care community. I wonder how many in her father's facility are doing the same? How humiliating for him and his partners. What an invasion of privacy and dignity.

  179. It was a bit painful reading this. You almost explicitly say you's prefer the call to be to notify you about your father's death. Like many, I find it strange that you'd have a say in what your father is doing privately. But when he's planning on going all the way with his "lady friend" and asks for condoms, you stall because you're worried about sexually transmitted diseases? Sounds like you're worried about your dad having sex, not about he getting any STDs. Your father is nearing the end of his life, he knows life is short, he lost his previous fiancé to a brain tumour after five months. His romance with this lady friend stopped because she could no longer afford to stay there. And you sigh of relief? If you want to have the talk, have it already anyway! Don't wait for your father to be again in the middle of a romance for you to be weeks preparing for your talk for him to be able to have condoms. He's not have a lot of time. Don't waste his time just because you'd prefer to keep the thought of your father having sex away.

  180. Older people may fall in love or in lust... No surprise, they are alive! Nursing homes for the elderly try to restrict it. No surprise either... Just one question: is it to prevent sexually transmissible diseases or lawsuits from families....

  181. Why would the nursing home folks even ask Ms. Zapalch about providing contraceptives? It's none of her business.

  182. The writer should be thrilled for his father. And hope that he is equally virile if he is lucky enough to reach four score. A problem that many men over eighty would love to deal with.

  183. I am struggling to understand why the facility called you, and why you think you have the authority to assent to his receiving contraceptives, or to deny them. His romantic and sexual life is his business, not yours. I think I understand your desire to protect him from a potentially predatory woman and, alternativelyfrom forcing himself on someone, but the decision to be sexually active should be his and his potential partner’s. I am thinking that his infidelities to your mother are clouding your thinking. Then and now he is responsible for his own decisions, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not.,

  184. What's the big deal? Let the old goat roam. If he fooled around on his deceased wife during their entire marriage, that's history. What's the life expectancy of anybody he's going to meet in the facility? Would any of his behavior "ruin anybody's life"? As for STDs, so what? Any woman who's lived to the age that puts her in one of these facilities doesn't have a life-threatening disease. Let him get what relish he can out of the rest of his life, and maybe he can give some cheer to a woman in a situation similar to his. I'd say that it's none of your business.

  185. Sorry, but daughter is overstepping her bounds by a country mile, and is clearly indicating a distaste for matters carnal.So long as dad is mentally competent, why are daughter and social worker allowed to control basic life decisions of dad? Infantilizing the elderly, in the absence of imminent danger, is dehumanizing, and incredibly destructive. Ask the daughter or the social worker how they would like it if someone tried to “protect” them from stds by screening their chosen partners. “

  186. This makes me sad and angry. "Cringeworthy"? Even allowing for some awkwardness when it comes to acknowledging that parents are sexual beings, this author's horror is just childish. I would hate to think that my own children would be so unequipped to deal with this. And also, why is this facility asking permission for the provision of contraception at all? What are the cognitive limitations, and do they require that a guardian supervise matters like this? Seems like everyone here is inappropriate in dealing with the needs/desires/comforts of this man. And his past patterns of adultery outside his marriage have absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand. This is about ensuring safe sexual encounters and nothing more. (Pregnancy? Come on!). And...THIS person gets to write a piece for the New York Times?

  187. So let me get this straight .. your father suffers from 'cognitive' issues of such severity that in your estimation render him incapable of acting independently or rationally with respect to deeply personal matters of a sexual nature, but not to such an extent that he can't give you his informed consent to share those intimate matters with the five million people who read this newspaper. What I'm sensing from this story - beyond the opportunism and condescension - is a resentment and vindictiveness toward a parent who failed to measure up to moral expectations either back in the day or in his twilight years. How fortuitous his lady friend left the seniors home unexpectedly thereby relieving you the weighty, awkward chore of deciding whether or not to give their liaison your personal stamp of approval.

  188. God Bless him, if he can perform, she is NOT going to get pregnant.

  189. I assume we are talking about condoms. Why do they need permission at 80 to get condoms? Why do you even need to know? Seems they could have avoided your dry heave, since this is between two consenting adults?

  190. I'm shocked by the fact that the nursing home even make this call! Why aren't condoms automatically available to residents without their family having to know? He's an adult! He has the right to have sex. And his "cognitive difficulties" doesn't exclude him from expressing his sexuality as long as his sexual encounters are consensual and in a private place. It's no-one else's business!

  191. I feel for the author. Her dad sounds like a creepy old man hitting on every woman he sees. The writer hints that had been his behavior even when he was a younger man, overly needy for women's attention and affection, including cheating on his wife. If anything, the women in the facility might need protection from him hitting on them, not that he needs protection for safe sex.

  192. why does the daughter get to make the decision? Does she have elderly conservatorship over her father? If not, this is really creepy.

  193. The thing is, one day she shall be 80 as well. Will she dry heave then?

  194. I find this article to be very offensive. If the author's father has been judged mentally incompetent presumably the author is his legal guardian. But it's not clear whether that's the case. If he has been judged mentally incompetent, he might not be able to consent to sex. None of these issues are discussed. Instead, the author goes on about how disgusting it is that an elderly person wants to have sex. This is incredibly ageist and I am shocked this was published.

  195. Contraceptives. serve to prevent pregnancy NOT prevent STD's which is what sexually active seniors need. Sad that the title is so misleading.

  196. @Beth Grant-DeRoos Condoms are considered to be contraceptives - a barrier method - and, if used correctly, do offer protection against STDs.

  197. I don't understand why she said no to condoms when the nurse asked for permission. He is an adult having a relationship with another adult and whatever they do it's none of her business. Moreover, if he has any doubts I am sure that nurse can help him. Her father is not her teenager son who needs The talk. Basically, she is having a power trip. Ridiculous and demeaning.

  198. "However, it is still cringeworthy to hear your father wants to be sexually active and that I need to have a conversation with him about safe sex." "I knew that his behavior would have brought my mother a combination of anger, humiliation and crippling shame." Like mother, like daughter. The writer needs to examine her own attitudes to sex -- perhaps she can move beyond "It's icky".

  199. 80 the new 40. Medicare coverage expiring...the new contraception.

  200. Geez, if you’re having problems talking this over with your dad, ask the staff to do it. In the meantime find a medical school that’s willing to study your dad’s vigor.

  201. The author’s father engaged in “extracurricular activities” with other women while he was married. There has to be some understandable anger still there.

  202. @Olivia Clearly there is anger, which makes her the worst person to be deciding whether he can have sex now. Perhaps she should consider therapy for her issues, rather than being given the opportunity to exact revenge on behalf of her mother.

  203. I see the moderators are trying to change this back to a cute story about a feckless old man and giggling/revolted daughter. Aged is the one reference group all of us will enter unless we decease first.

  204. Consenting adults want to engage in a fun activity together. How on earth would this make this women dry heave? I am completely befuddled by what appears to be this women's bizarre fear of sex. Let them enjoy themselves in the time they have left. Lady you have hangups.

  205. Good for him!

  206. @John And good for his consenting partner!