Conference challenges taboos: sex, seniors and dementia

8 September 2015

A conversation about the largely unspoken issues associated with sex and ageing is long overdue. Working together, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and COTA Victoria aim to push this dialogue firmly into the mainstream at the inaugural, international Let’s Talk About Sex, Relationships and Intimacy as We Age conference, Tuesday 8 – Wednesday 9 September.

"There is no reason men and women shouldn’t be having sex as they age if they want to do so. For those older people who face challenges in expressing themselves sexually, the conference represents a unique opportunity to dispel the stigma that exists in our community about the sexual needs of older Australians,” Maree McCabe, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic said.

"The concept of an older couple in their 80s or 90s holding hands or kissing one another on the cheek is considered to be a beautiful thing. In contrast, the concept of the same elderly couple having sex tends to make people feel uncomfortable. Where do these attitudes come from and why don’t we talk about them?” asks Maree McCabe, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic."

The conference will challenge the assumptions, taboos and stereotypes when it comes to older people and sexual intimacy.

“We want to get as many people as possible talking about sex and ageing, on a global scale. We tend to shy away from discussing the need and desire for intimacy amongst older people. The failure to acknowledge that we continue to be sexual beings as we age has left many deprived of their right to a satisfying and fulfilling sex life,” Sue Hendy, CEO COTA Victoria said.

Ms McCabe said the reality associated with an ageing population means that the need to discuss what it means to ‘age well’ has never been more important. The crucial role that sex and intimacy play is often overlooked in this conversation.

“The risk of developing dementia increases with age. Therefore, the topic of sex and dementia and the unique challenges this presents will be a key area of focus throughout the conference,” Ms McCabe said.

In aged care planning, no provision is generally given for clients to be intimate with their partners and it is often regarded as inappropriate. We need to ensure people are safe from sexual abuse whether at home or in care, and we know this is a concern to many people and service providers alike.

The comprehensive program for this two-day event will provide a high level of education and arresting discussions. Internationally acclaimed speakers from medical and allied health, education, government and aged care, alongside consumers sharing their own experiences, will address delegates.

Keynote speakers will include:

  • Joan Price, a California-based advocate for ageless sexuality, media-dubbed “senior sexpert,” and author of three books about senior sex. Tuesday 9.50-10.10am
  • Dr Rosie King, a New South Wales based, internationally acclaimed sex therapist, educator, author and lecturer with over 30 years of clinical experience. Tuesday 5.00-6.30pm
  • Kaz Cooke, a well-known Melbourne-based author, cartoonist, radio broadcaster and public speaker. Kaz is one of Australia’s most trusted advisors for girls and women and is well versed in putting a light hearted spin on taboo subjects. Wednesday 4.00-4.40pm
  • Ita Buttrose AO OBE, Former National President Dementia Australia, a truly exceptional Australian: a legendary media editor, businesswoman, best-selling author, committed community and welfare contributor and 2013 Australian of the Year. Tuesday 5.30-6.00pm

The Conference themes will include:

  • The Right to Choose - Rights, Ethics, Legalities, Capacity to Decide
  • Safety and Health - Physical, Emotional, Environmental, Illness and Disability, Abuse, Community
  • Attitudes and Values - Diversity, Stigma, Taboo, Fetishes, Adventurism, Sex Workers
  • Having the Conversation - Language, Family, Home, Place, Service Delivery

“We are so proud to be hosting this unique international event. It will set the benchmark as we strive to highlight the importance of sexual relationships as we age. With an eclectic array of local and international experts and real people telling their own personal stories, this event is one not to be missed,” Ms Hendy said.

The conference, which is being held as part of Dementia Awareness Month: Creating a Dementia-Friendly Nation, will take place on 8 and 9 September 2015 at Pullman Hotel, 192 Wellington Parade, Melbourne.

Registrations are still welcome online or available on arrival.

For more information, to register online, email or call +613 9417 0888.

Notes to media

When writing or talking about dementia, please provide your audience with the number for our National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 - a telephone information and support service available across Australia.

What is appropriate language for talking about dementia and why do we need it?

The words used to talk about dementia can have a significant impact on how people with dementia are viewed and treated in our community. Please read our Dementia Language Guidelines that have been developed by people living with dementia and carers.

About Alzheimer’s Australia Vic

In Victoria almost 81,000 people are living with dementia. This figure is projected to increase to 246,000 by 2050.

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic is the charity representing people of all ages with all forms of dementia in Victoria. As the peak body, we provide specialised dementia information, education and support services.

Call our National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit

About COTA Victoria

COTA Victoria has been the voice of older people for over 60 years and provides much needed information to seniors through its telephone service and education programs delivered by COTA volunteers. Its research and advocacy work ensures that issues of importance to older people are communicated to government and the public.

Media contact: Sam Watson +613 9816 5736 / +613 419 815 178 / or

Christine Bolt +613 9816 5772 / +613 400 004 553 /