Australia doesn't know how to deal with its older people having sex.
There's no guidelines on allowing older Australians access to a sexual relationship when in care and little consistent research into what sex means for older Australians.
This means it's common for a married couple to go into care, and not be allowed to share a room or be afforded privacy.
Australian Catholic University Institute for Health and Ageing pHD candidate Ashley Macleod said it was easier for young people to think of the elderly as 'asexual' but that wasn't the case.
"Sexuality is a really important factor in quality of life, but most research tends to be focused on the reproductive years," Macleod said.
"There's a big part of the life span people are forgetting about and our research shows sexual expression is still very important for that older age group but in a different way to someone in their 20s.
"The research suggests that the frequency of intercourse declines but things like intimacy and affection quality of sexual engagements are still very important to older adults."
She's just embarked on the first survey of a three-part research project aiming to define sexuality for older Australians and develop a measurement scale for sexuality in mid and later life with the hopes it might influence policy and guidelines in the future.
"I find that when I tell people about the work I'm doing, the younger the person is, the more surprised they are. I just tell them 'you'll thank me in 30 or 40 years."
She said the first results of the Older Adult Sexuality and Intimacy Study showed Australians over 45 engaged in sexual activity regularly.
"The fact that people were so open with their answers shows sexual expression is very important to them."Suggest a correction