Intimacy pp 371-382 | Cite as

Intimacy Issues and the Older Patient

  • Margot Tallmer


Retirement, role loss, health, and other variables related to aging have been examined with regard to their impact on older persons. Their effects have been measured and carefully documented. Intimacy in the elderly, defined here as a basic need for pursuit of and satisfaction in close relationships embracing but clearly not confined to sexual activity, has not been as seriously or frequently considered. It has been scrutinized much more carefully in relation to children. Spitz and Bowlby, for example, have dramatically illuminated the need for intimacy and, through their writings and research, have demonstrated the extreme negative effects of contact deprivation. Under more rigorous laboratory conditions, Harlow’s monkeys have evidenced the dramatic changes brought about by lack of contact. Children do not seem able to retain an inner image of a mothering figure until a sufficient time-related developmental sequence has taken place; this inner awareness of and conviction of the mother is a sine qua non of normal growth. In a further development, the child and later the adult need to know that they exist in the feelings and thoughts of another person. The certainty of being part of someone else’s existence validates one’s being, one’s personhood, and eventually one’s constancy.


Successful Aging Sexual Intimacy Married Person Older Patient Mothering Figure 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margot Tallmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Hunter CollegeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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