In the gay community, youth is everything, right? Maybe not. The Mature Aged Gay (MAG) group co-facilitated by ACON claims to be the biggest gay and lesbian social club in Australia -“ judged by numbers of bums on seats at meetings.

One of the initial aims of MAG when the group started was to provide information on safer sex for older gay men -“ men not usually targeted in HIV/AIDS education.

University of New England PhD student Samantha Ackling is researching sexuality in people aged 60 and over, and wants to hear from older gay men and lesbians.

Ackling’s thesis working title is Intimacy And Sexual Expression In People Over 60.

One of the things I’m interested in is how gay men deal with aging and sexuality -“ with the whole six-pack Oxford St look so prevalent in Sydney. Aging and attractiveness is a real issue for heterosexual women -“ and less so for lesbians, Ackling says.

Currently Ackling has plenty of heterosexual subjects and wants the thesis to be balanced. She is looking for as many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender over-60s as she can find.

From the research already completed, Ackling says two different themes are coming through. Some participants say they are having the best sex of their lives, and some say for one reason or another their sex lives have slowed, or even stopped.

Some people in their 70s and 80s are telling me that their sex lives are more enjoyable now than when they were younger, she says.

This project will be looking at some of the popular misconceptions, reinforced by the media, that people somehow lose their sexuality as they age.

This misconception -“ that people over the age of 60 do not have sex -“ has been recently reinforced by the Australian Study of Health Relationships. The study, meant to give an accurate reading of all Australian relationships, was based only on people aged 16 to 59.

Participants should be ready to spill the beans. The interviews will be done by phone, to encourage participants to be comfortable and speak candidly. Ackling says she will be asking some personal questions -“ about sexual practices, sexuality and intimacy.

This is not because I’m a voyeur, she says.

There are two reasons for this research -“ to promote positive aging and say people over the age of 60 can be sexual. And we’re about to have a huge aging population. HIV and STI health promotion and information has never been targeted at this particular age group before.

To get involved in Samantha Ackling’s research project, ring her on (02) 6773 3671. She will conduct phone interviews (at no charge to the interview subjects) in January.

Information on the NSW MAG group, which meets twice a month at ACON and weekly at Gilligans, is available online at www.magnsw.org.

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