Civil Liberties

"And Then They Started Having Sex"


Melinda Henneberger at Slate writes about 82-year-old Dorothy and 95-year-old Bob, whose love affair at the nursing home for dementia patients is considered adorable until it turns sexual.

To justify keeping the two apart, Bob's family frets about the danger posed by his bad heart (which Dorothy's doctor firmly dismissed as just plain wrong), and then more or less admits that they're opposed to the relationship simply on principle: Old people should be contemplative and chaste. Period.

But what it really comes down to is the money:

Dorothy's son-in-law, who is a doctor, suspects Bob's son of fearing for his inheritance. Bob had repeatedly proposed for all to hear and called Dorothy his wife, but his son called her something else–a "gold digger"–and refused to even discuss her family's offer to sign a prenup.

Families don't want their mentally unsound loved ones entering contracts that will leave children and grandchildren sorting through a mess of legal entanglements–fair enough. And something like the "sexual power of attorney" suggested in the article might be a good option. But do we really want to say that forgetful old people shouldn't be allowed to have sex, just because they're, well, forgetful and old?

If boomers are going to make a case for restricting their parents' liberty in the last few years of life, perhaps they should first look their own futures and ask themselves if they want their children oppressing their sexual appetites in the year 2030.

More reason on dementia.