Baby boomers demand right to share bed in aged care

Published 08 November 2016

Aged care providers must prepare for cultural change as baby boomers start to demand shared rooms and beds with their partners, a University of New England researcher has told a national conference.

Ph.D. Candidate Alison Rahn from the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences said most aged care facilities don’t allow partners to share a bed or room. Research has shown this may have significant impacts on each partners’ sense of wellbeing.

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“I think it is time to investigate whether the present culture in residential aged care is suitable for the next generation. Sharing a bed for most of the baby boomers made sleeping more comforting, they used a bed for bonding and that it was the setting where much of their relationship takes place.”

As part of Ms Rahn’s research, 168 baby boomers participated in an online survey and 29 people who worked in the aged care sector were interviewed. The survey showed that baby boomers want to be able to sleep in the same room and bed as their partner and for them to be provided with as much privacy as possible.

“If providers want to satisfy future consumer expectation, they need to start offering the option of a shared room with a double bed to partnered residents.”

As Ms Rahn told the 15th National Conference of Emerging Researchers in Ageing in Canberra, management and staff should also give couples the privacy to conduct their relationships in bed however they wish.

About 50,000 aged care residents are married or in a de facto relationship, and partners make up about 35% of new admissions into aged care facilities.

“Anecdotally, couples are often routinely separated into separate beds or separate rooms. Until couples’ needs are adequately documented they will likely continue to be discriminated against.”

Ms Rahn says people can become withdrawn or display challenging behaviours if they are deprived of loving touch.

“Good sleep is also essential to good health and for many adults, sleep is a social activity shared with a partner. Partnered baby boomers derived emotional benefits from the shared activities of physical intimacy, closeness, communication and sexual activity in bed. It was more than merely housing bodies for sleep.”

Providers will need to develop clear written policies regarding partners residents’ so that families can make informed decisions when selecting a residential aged care facility.