09/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Nursing Home Sex: You've Gotta Fight for Your Rights

It's worse than the thought of living in a nursing home. It's trying to have sex while living in a nursing home. Seems laughable... 'til you consider that we're all sexual beings from before we're born 'til the day we die. So why aren't elder sexual rights preserved when they move into a nursing home facility?

This important question was recently raised by psychologist and eldercare expert Ira Rosofsky in the Los Angeles Times. And it's one that ultimately ends up affecting most Americans in some way. Even if you're not headed to a nursing home in a few years, then you're likely related to somebody who is -- or who may be in this sex prison already. And if you care about this individual's physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, then you need to advocate for their sexual privacy.

For decades, eldercare activists have been advocating "privacy rooms" for nursing home residents, only to be met with rejection. This is in spite of the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 containing a Residents' Bill of Rights which guarantees the right to privacy and accommodation of one's personal needs. (Kind of gives new meaning to "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," hmmm?)

So instead, most elderly who want to get it on can only roll the die in becoming involuntary exhibitionists. Doors are almost always open. When closed, they're met with suspicion and entered by anybody unexpectedly at any time. If elders are found up to "no good," then they're made out to be sexual perverts. Rosofsky had one resident referred to him after an aide -- who didn't knock -- walked in on the man masturbating.

As is stated in laws protecting our personal welfare in our later years, we have the right to address our physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs. For many consenting adults, no matter what their age, these needs are related to their sexuality and sexual expression.

Whether you're in an elderly facility, a Baby Boomer planning your later years, or the caretaker of one living in or about to move into a nursing home facility, fight for the right to preserve one's dignity in their sex life. Demand that you or your loved one be given the right to maintain sexual independence, stressing that it's not inappropriate or offensive for people to be sexually active in their later years. Highlight that sexual activity and self-pleasuring hold many health benefits, contributing to one's overall well-being like nothing else.

Be adamant in accepting nothing less than guaranteed privacy in your room or a "privacy room" in taking care of one's sexual needs. Threaten to take legal action if laws are not being honored. This affront to taking care of our sexual selves and our sexual relationships has gone on long enough.