Too old for sex? Not at this nursing home

Ms. Davison is among a number of older Americans who are having intimate relationships well into their 70s and 80s, helped in some cases by Viagra and more tolerant societal attitudes toward sex outside marriage. These aging lovers have challenged traditional notions of growing old and, in some cases, raised logistical and legal issues for their families, caretakers and the institutions they call home.

Nursing homes in New York and across the country have increasingly broached the issue as part of a broader shift from institutional to individualized care, according to nursing home operators and their industry groups. Many have already loosened daily regimens to give residents more choice over, say, what time to bathe or what to eat for dinner. The next step for some is to allow residents the option of having sex, and to provide support for those who do…

But intimacy in nursing homes also raises questions about whether some residents can consent to sex. Henry Rayhons, a former Iowa state legislator, was charged with sexual abuse in 2014 after being accused of having sex with his wife, who had severe Alzheimer’s disease and was in a nursing home. A jury found him not guilty.