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Too Late for Love? Sexuality and Intimacy in Heterosexual Couples Living with an Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis

21 April 2020

Publication date
15 April 2020

Original abstract

New sexual scripts on later life are emerging, discourses on “sexy oldies” challenge pervasive discourses on asexual old age. Still, sexuality among people with dementia, who are generally older, is rarely affirmed. Research on sexuality and dementia is, moreover, dominated by biomedical accounts that regard sexual and intimate behaviours as expressions of pathology. However, sexuality and intimacy could be significant aspects of later life, also when living with dementia. This qualitative study explores experiences of sexuality and intimacy among heterosexual couples where one partner was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Interviews were conducted with seven couples, aged 55–87, and both the person with the dementia diagnosis and their partner participated. The findings point to a diversity of experiences, with differences between the older and younger couples. The older couples experienced changes more as a result of embodied ageing, and sexuality and intimacy were experienced as sources of pleasure, comfort and recognition. The younger couples understood changes more as caused by Alzheimer’s disease and experienced a greater loss of intimacy and desire. The study shows how experiences of sexuality and intimacy when living with dementia are shaped by varying sexual scripts and expectations of health in different parts of the life course.



Sandberg, L.J. (2020). Too late for love? Sexuality and intimacy in heterosexual couples living with an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. DOI: 10.1080/14681994.2020.1750587

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sexuality, intimacy, later life, ageing, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease


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