Do you have an Advance Directive for Sexual Rights?

This important topic comes up so often when I speak or give interviews that I’m republishing this post from Oct. 2017. Please comment!

When do we lose the right to sexual expression? If we’re lucky enough to be active and independent now, we’re smart enough to realize that a time may come that we no longer can live on our own. What will you want for yourself? For your loved ones? How can you make sure that your wishes are respected?

Take some time to think about these ideas and questions:

  • When do we lose the right to sexual expression?
  • Does our right to sexual expression end if/when we can no longer live independently? If so, why?
  • Who determines whether we can still express ourselves sexually, and by what guidelines do they make that decision?
  • Do elders with dementia have the right to sexual expression? Who decides that, and on what basis?
  •  If staff members have a different personal belief about what’s appropriate sexual behavior (or non-behavior), do their values override our own?
  • If family members are uncomfortable with us having a sexual relationship, should their wishes supersede ours?
As uncomfortable as this might seem, I suggest you write down your personal policy about your right to sexual expression in your later years: an Advance Directive for Sexual Rights, let’s call it. Then  share it with your loved ones. Just because you might be unable to voice your wishes when the time comes doesn’t mean you no longer have those wishes.

Personally, I want the right to decide when and how I want to be touched sexually — whether by my own hand, a partner I’ve chosen, or a sex toy that they’d better not pry out of my arthritic hands — for the rest of my life. Don’t you?

If I end up living in a care facility, I imagine I won’t submit to rules easily, unless they are as progressive as the Hebrew Home at Riverdale (NY), which has had a sexual rights policy since 1995, and updates it periodically. Until other homes catch up, it’s up to us to make our wishes clear.

Have you written your Advance Directive for Sexual Rights? Here’s mine:

  • Make sure I have an outlet and batteries to keep my sex toys in working order.
  • Do not interfere with any warm connection I may be enjoying with any companion I choose, in any way I choose to express that connection.
  • If I’m involved with a sexual partner, make sure I have easy access to safer sex protection.
  • When I close the door—whether I’m alone or with another person—give me privacy.
  • If I’m still capable of sharing information about senior sexuality with residents and or staff, provide me with opportunities to do that.

What are yours?

[Excerpted from The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty: How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life  by Joan Price]


  1. Sam on September 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

    I have another one:If I am unable to care or speak for myself and my wife is in a caregiver role and my wife finds comfort and/or companionship outside our marriage, even if I am still alive, my family is not to criticize or condemn her. I consent and even encourage her to do so if she feels the desire to. I have told her this is okay. I want her to be happy.

    • Joan Price on September 3, 2020 at 10:21 am

      Excellent addition, Sam.

  2. Angela on September 24, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Hi Joan! You have given me lots to think about in terms of advanced directives and sexuality. I work with older adults and I understand the importance of sexual expression at any age. Everyone should be proactive on all matters related to aging and sexuality is often missed in all the lectures I go to.

  3. Jan Haws on September 18, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    This is timely. If we do not state our wishes clearly, the time may come when others decide for us. Do we really want that?????

  4. Mac Marshall on October 29, 2017 at 2:09 am

    This is partially cribbed from Joan Prices’s working draft above.

    Should the time come when I must reside in a care facility, here are my wishes and expectations concerning my inalienable rights to sexual expression. I love sex, partnered or solo, and consider it essential to my physical and mental wellbeing. Therefore:

    *If my room door is closed, whether I’m by myself or with another person, I expect privacy.

    *If I own one or more sex toys, they belong to me and should not be removed or used by staff.

    *If I develop a social and/or sexual relationship with a companion in the facility I expect staff not to interfere with that connection, so long as our PUBLIC behavior does not have a negative impact on others. Our PRIVATE behavior is our own business.

    *If I develop a sexual relationship with a companion I expect that staff will assure that I have access to safe sex protection in the form of condoms and dams.

  5. Mac Marshall on October 26, 2017 at 5:25 am

    I’ve had an Advanced Health Care Directive for many years, but I’d never considered an Advanced Directive for Sexual Rights until I read this excellent post. Still enjoying sex at age 74, I hope sexual desire and pleasure will continue until the day I die. If in the future I have to reside in a care facility I’ll want to secure my sexual rights. Therefore, I applaud Joan Price’s idea of preparing such a document to make my wishes clear. I plan to do so forthwith.

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