An 82-year-old friend spoke openly of his need for intimacy. He hungers to be kissed and held. He wants sex.
“Am I a bad person? I think about it a lot.”
Abraham Maslow asserted that having sex was a primary need, no different than that for air and water. “Intimacy” was a level-three need, but more basic than self-esteem, according to him. It’s true regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity.
Forty percent of Americans age 65 to 80 are sexually active. Before the COVID containment, sexually transmitted infections were on the rise in nursing homes. Even if they’re unable to perform sexually, most people never lose their desire for intimacy, in whatever form it might take.
The friend questioning me happened to be gay, recently widowed after many years of loving, and living alone, independently.
“Grindr?” I offered, trying to be helpful.
“No, I don’t want to get murdered, or robbed. I don’t want to get syphilis, gonorrhea, or crabs.”
What about joining a singles group and date? SilverDaddies?
“No, I don’t want someone who doesn’t leave. I’m not looking for a live-in boyfriend. I want to be held and kissed, but then I want him to leave. I have my own routines. I like my life. I don’t want someone wanting me to get rid of my husband’s things to make room for his.”
When services are created for LGBT seniors, we think about their physical and emotional health. Before the social distancing of the pandemic, we planned get-togethers and outings to the opera or bingo. Does it occur to us, though, that maybe we’re failing to address a most important component of emotional health, the need to feel intimacy?
It’s illegal (in Florida), if not dangerous, for a non-profit working with seniors to provide lists of hookers, a “happy ending” masseuse, and escorts, but where is the elder person supposed to find the information they are looking for, especially if they’re not tied into the local social network?
Are they “bad people” for longing for warmth in their bed again, a body they’re willing to pay for, but live in fear of calling the number, or emailing the name in the magazine ad? If they asked for help from a service organization, and were denied, where lies the shame if they contact someone on an app, and are beaten and robbed?
If it was reported in the press that a non-profit working with seniors provided information on the safest prostitutes to hire, the executive director would resign, members of the Board of Directors would quit, all funding would dry up, and all of the services provided by that group to the elderly would end.
Volunteers, like me, are provided long lists of “do’s and don’ts,” such as not riding in the same car, not giving financial advice, and certainly not getting romantically involved or physical with the person to whom we’re assigned. We fill out monthly forms that report on the individual’s health and mood. We’re encouraged to give practical advice, such as how to retrieve email, use their cellphones, and to search the web for information.
Despite being certified as a sexuality educator, I was among the last that should have been asked for advice on safe hook-ups. But, I know how to network, research, and ask questions. And so, I did.
A local gay guesthouse owner told me that one older man had visitors all through his stay, two very polite young men, one staying for the first part of the week, and the other the latter part of the stay. “I was surprised to learn that they were escorts. They were very courteous and properly behaved.”
“Rent.Men.com,” I was told by one senior gay man who asked around at my behest. “There’s RentBoys.com, too, I’m told, but given what you’ve told me, I think he wants
I googled SilverDaddies, Rent.Men, and RentBoys. I also inquired about how welcome my friend might be in a bathhouse.
“There is someone for everyone in the baths,” a former bathhouse owner told me. “He could come and sit in the lounge and talk with people if he wanted just to connect with others. There are two such places in Ft. Lauderdale, Clubhouse II and Club Fort Lauderdale. Of the two, Clubhouse II has more seniors as clients.”
I did more searching on the Internet and found it all a bit intimidating. I’m lucky enough to have the intimacy I need from my husband of 44 years, my dog of three years, and my family and friends. A hug and kiss are always just a short distance away. If I was in need of company, in the absence of Ray’s love, but wasn’t looking for a relationship, I’d probably sign up for a weekend spiritual workshop where all of the gay men got naked, like at the Body Electric, and maybe eat magic mushrooms together in a smoke lodge. Or, I’d just get a massage. That would be less scary for me than hiring an escort.
I can tell a friend all of this, but if I was prohibited from giving this kind of information to a person to whom I was assigned by a group working with gay seniors, I’d probably just write a column, and post it on Facebook.
Two Guys and A Dog is a semi-regular column from Brian McNaught, who has been a leading educator on LGBT issues globally since 1974. Visit Brian-McNaught.com to access his books and DVDs for free. “No one has done a better job of chronicling what it is like to be gay in America.” – Former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank.