Nevada: Worker Killed in Gold Mine Ceiling Collapse – Jason Holman – RIP – 31 Oct 2018

Jason Holman

ELKO, Nev., Oct. 28, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — A miner from Goshen, Utah was killed Thursday, October  afternoon after a roof collapse at a gold mine north of Elko, Nevada.  The Elko Daily Free Press reported the man has been identified as Jason Holman, 42.

The incident occurred at Jerritt Canyon Gold’s Lee Smith Mine, run by Small Mine Development, at approximately 5:10 p.m. Small Mine Development’s general manager, Keith Jones, told the Elko Daily Free Press that Holman was “loading a round and was involved in a fall of ground near the end of his shift.”

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s spokeswoman Amy Louviere added that Holman was “loading blast holes underground when the cemented backfill roof fell, causing fatal injuries. MSHA has inspectors at the mine site and has secured the scene.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and SMD following this devastating event and tragic loss,” Jerritt Canyon Gold’s president and chief executive officer, Greg Gibson, said in an email. “ The health and safety of our employees and contractors at our mine remain our top priority.”

MSHA, the state mine inspector and Elko County Sheriff’s Department are assisting in the investigation.  MSHA data shows this is the first mine fatality in Nevada this year.


Jason Holman, a 42-year-old underground mineworker from Goshen, Utah, was killed on October 25 in a collapse at the Lee Smith gold mine, 50 miles north of Elko, Nevada. Few details have been released, but according to a preliminary report from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Holman, a powderman, was loading explosives into the rock-face when a 150-ton portion of the mine ceiling fell and “a portion of this cemented backfill, weighing approximately 5 tons, landed on top of the miner.” He appears to have died instantly. The incident is still under investigation by MSHA

Holman leaves behind three children—McKade, Tyson and Jaycee—and a loving family. The family could not be reached for additional comments, but his brother Shawn published a tribute on Facebook saying, “one of his goals he was working for and saving toward was taking his daughter Jaycee to Disneyland for the very first time.” According to the gofundme page set up by his family to pay for funeral arrangements, Jason was an avid outdoorsman who liked to hunt, fish and camp. At the time of this writing, the page has raised over $4,400, donated in small sums by other mineworkers and their families.

By all accounts, Holman was well-liked and respected by his coworkers. He had worked as an underground miner for 13 years, including 28 weeks at the Lee Smith mine prior to his death. The Lee Smith mine is one of many underground gold mines in Jerritt Canyon, a mining complex in the isolated Independence Mountains mining district of Northern Nevada that has seen a boom in gold extraction since the 1980s.

The Lee Smith Mine reaches depths of over 1000 feet below the surface. Small Mine Development, the contractor operating the mine, uses underhand mining with cemented backfill to extract the ore. This method was developed to facilitate hard rock mining in deep mines with poor ground conditions. Among two other mines, underhand cut and cemented backfill was developed and tested in the Lucky Friday silver mine in Mullen, Idaho.

Lucky Friday is the deepest mine in the United States, at nearly two miles below the surface. Two hundred and thirty mineworkers there have been on strike since March 2017 and have repeatedly rebuffed attempts to force them to accept a concessions contract that would reduce health benefits and compromise safety in the interests of profits.

The Lee Smith Mine was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2015, along with the entire Jerritt Canyon complex, by Jerrit Canyon Gold LLC, owned by Canadian billionaire Eric Sprott. Speaking to the Elko Daily Free Press after the buyout, Jerritt Canyon Gold’s CEO, Greg Gibson, promised an increase in gold production, saying that Sprott “is of the belief that there are a lot more ounces to come out of Jerritt Canyon.”

Sprott is one of the largest gold equity holders in North America. He purchases mines around the world, speculating that as gold prices rise and the global economy spirals into crisis, he will profit. Speaking earlier this month at the Precious Metals Investment Symposium in Perth, Australia, Sprott said, “If you were right on gold in 2000, on average you made 1700 per cent. Do it once, you’re set for life,” he said, touting his investment strategy as “stealing value.”

The mineworkers who dig the precious metals face dangerous conditions as a rule. In 2014, MSHA issued Veris Gold, the previous owner, 60 citations for safety violations at the Jerritt Canyon Complex. In 2015, Jason Potter, a 26-year-old jumbo drill operator, was killed at the Jerritt Canyon complex’s SSX Mine (also operated by Small Mine Development) when a 13-foot-long drill bit struck him. The MSHA report found management at fault for inadequate safety training. Just 10 days before Jason Holman’s death, two workers were injured in a steam explosion at the Jerritt Canyon Mill.

An underground miner who works in a mine adjacent to Lee Smith spoke about the conditions facing underground mineworkers. “Personally, for me, each shift as I enter the mine, I think about my friends that had passed and make a commitment to myself to come out safe … it is dangerous and there is no way to be 100 percent safe. If a miner isn’t scared each time they enter the hole, they aren’t ready to mine.”

Jason Holman’s death was the 14th metal and nonmetal mining fatality the US in 2018, and the 22nd including fatalities in the coal industry.

Fatalities in the mining industry are a component of the rising rates of workplace injuries and deaths in the US as a whole, as both the Republicans and the Democrats roll back regulations and the corporations cut wages and benefits and sacrifice safety for greater output and profit.

Some of the deadly mining accidents in recent years occurred under the Obama administration, which appointed former United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) safety official Joe Main to head MSHA. Among these accidents was the disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, which killed 29 of the 31 coal miners at the mine.

The Trump administration has frozen new and pending regulations and is reviewing existing regulations in order to roll them back. Trump’s head of MSHA, former coal executive David Zatezalo, is overseeing a review of protections against the dust and emissions that contribute to skyrocketing rates of black lung disease among Appalachian coal miners.

As corporations bring in record profits, workers have seen a decade’s worth of declining wages and are working longer hours for fewer benefits, in hazardous conditions. At least 150 workers die every day from hazardous conditions, and according to the most recent government data, 2016 saw a 7 percent increase in workers killed on the job—up to 5,190 from 4,836 in 2015.
Other miners killed this month include:

Roger W. Herndon, 33, an auger helper at the Princess Polly Anna & JCT Enterprises LLC Surface Mine #1, in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, who was fatally injured on October 17 when he was struck by a piece of auger drill steel.

Brendan DeMaster, 40, of North Royalton, Ohio, a miner with 20 years experience, who was fatally injured October 2 at an underground zinc mine, which just opened in June in Gouverneur, New York. DeMaster was struck by a sudden burst of stemming sand, which had been ejected from a borehole that was being cleaned with high pressure air.

An 18-year-old miner, Anthony David Montoya of Hollis, Oklahoma, was fatally mauled by a grizzly bear while working at a remote silver mine in Alaska on October 1. He was working at a drill site on the edge of the Hecla Greens Creek Mine, one of the world’s largest silver producers, located about 18 miles south of Juneau on Admiralty Island.

October has been particularly deadly for miners throughout the world.

Twenty-one coal miners were killed in eastern China after a tunnel where 22 miners were working was blocked at both ends by coal after pressure caused rocks to fracture and break on October 20. The Longyun Coal Mining Co. Ltd. is located in Yuncheng County in Shandong province.
A 46-year-old miner in South Africa was also killed by head injuries suffered in an underground accident at Lonmin’s platinum mine. Lonmin, the world’s third largest platinum producer, is notorious for the Marikana massacre in August 2012. Seventeen striking miners were murdered and another 78 wounded when South African security forces opened fire on them during a series of violent assaults, which began when officials opened fire on rebellious miners.

27 Oct 1962 – The Day The World Almost Went to Nuclear War Over Cuba – by Jon Schwarz – 27 Oct 2018

What Trump and John Bolton Don’t Understand About Nuclear War

nuclear bomb 2

President Donald Trump’s announcement on October 20 that he intends to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was, if nothing else, appropriately timed. On that date exactly 56 years before, President John F. Kennedy abruptly cut short a midterm campaign trip to Illinois because, the White House said, he had a cold. In fact, Kennedy was returning to Washington to address the Cuban missile crisis — the closest humanity has ever come to obliterating itself with a nuclear war.

The INF treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It required both countries to forgo any land-based missiles, nuclear or otherwise, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

In concrete terms, the treaty was a huge success. The U.S. destroyed almost 1,000 of its own missiles, and the Soviets destroyed almost 2,000 of theirs.

But arms control treaties are never about weapons and numbers alone. They can help enemy nations create virtuous circles, both between them and within themselves. Verification requires constant communication and the establishment of trust; it creates constituencies for peace inside governments and in the general public; this reduces on both sides the power of the paranoid, reactionary wing that exists in every country; this creates space for further progress; and so on.

The long negotiation of the INF treaty, and the post-signing environment it helped create, was part of an extraordinary collapse of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1980s. When Reagan took office, the Soviets genuinely believed that the U.S. might engage in a nuclear first strike against them. This, in turn, led to two separate moments in 1983 in which the two countries came terrifyingly close to accidental nuclear war — closer than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.

Instead, the INF treaty was part of an era of good feelings that contributed to one of the most remarkable events of the past 100 years: the largely peaceful implosion of the Soviet Empire. Empires generally do not go quietly, and the dynamics of imperial collapse often contribute to huge conflagrations. Think of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and World War I; or the British Empire and World War II. The Soviet fall was an incredible piece of good fortune for the world; if it had happened in the early 1980s, instead of a few years later, it plausibly would have been catastrophic.

It is almost certainly these more diffuse effects that concern the smarter members of the Trump administration, such as national security adviser John Bolton, who’s yearned for decades to decommission the treaty. Russians may be cheating on the treaty in a modest way, while China is not bound by it at all and is developing intermediate-range missiles. But it’s hard to see how this will affect legitimate U.S. security interests.

On the other hand, exiting the treaty will do more than just lead to an arms race in which all three countries throw themselves into building new weapons. It will also create an atmosphere in which any rational modus vivendi between the U.S. and Russia, or the U.S. and China, will be far more difficult. This is the prize for Bolton and his allies, who can imagine only one world order: One in which they give orders, and everyone else submits.

Bolton has the standard self-perception of his genre of human: In his memoir, “Surrender Is Not an Option,” he explains that he cares about “hard reality,” in contrast to the “dreamy and academic” fools who support arms control.

But in fact, it is Bolton who is living inside of a dream. The hard reality is that our species almost committed suicide on October 27, the most dangerous moment of the Cuban missile crisis, later dubbed Black Saturday by the Kennedy administration. Even with comparative doves in charge of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, we came close to ending human civilization, thanks to mutual incomprehension. And we avoided it, as then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later said, not by talent or wisdom, but pure luck. Then, we created a false history of what happened, one which allows terrifying fantasists like Bolton to reach, and thrive within, the highest levels of power.

President Kennedy meets with U.S. Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October-November 1962. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

President John F. Kennedy meets with U.S. Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Photo: Corbis via Getty Images

There is a standard story about the Cuban Missile Crisis, at least for those who remember it at all:

The perfidious Soviet communists, bent on intimidating the U.S. into submission via the superior power they wielded as a result of the missile gap, sent nuclear weapons to Cuba, from where they could strike the U.S. in minutes. But John F. Kennedy stood tall, refusing to make any concessions to the Russian bullies. JFK went toe to toe with the Soviets, and demonstrated he was tough enough to risk nuclear war. Finally, the other side blinked first and surrendered, taking the missiles out of Cuba. America won!

The hard reality, however, is that everything about this is false, both in its specifics and implications. It is, as James Blight and janet Lang, two of the top academic specialists on the crisis, have put it, “bullshit.” The even harder reality is that October 27 was a far more petrifying moment than U.S. and Soviet participants understood at the time — and they were terrified. Blight and Lang estimate that if the crisis were run under the same conditions 100 times, it would end in nuclear war 95 times. We are living in one of the five alternate universes in which humanity survived.

The roots of the Cuban missile crisis can be found in three main factors: America’s overwhelming nuclear superiority; the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961; and the stationing of U.S. intermediate nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey early on during the Kennedy administration.

During the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy attacked the Eisenhower administration for allowing the development of a “missile gap” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. There was indeed an enormous gap in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles possessed by each country — but in favor of the U.S. As of 1962, the Soviets only had 20, and they were of such poor quality that they might not have managed to accurately reach the U.S. The U.S. had hundreds. This made the Soviets believe a nuclear first strike by the U.S. — something genuinely supported by factions of the U.S. military and hard right — could leave them unable to retaliate. The Soviets did have missiles, however, that could reach the U.S. mainland from Cuba.

The Soviets were also motivated to send the missiles to Cuba because they believed they would deter another invasion attempt.

Finally, the Soviets reasonably saw it as leveling the playing field. The American nuclear missiles in Turkey could hit Moscow in 10 minutes. Now, the Soviet missiles in Cuba could do the same to Washington, D.C.

The U.S. did not perceive it this way when American reconnaissance discovered the Cuban missiles on October 14. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended an immediate invasion of Cuba. Kennedy instead chose to blockade the island. But by October 26, he had come to believe that only an invasion could remove the missiles. The administration began planning for a replacement government in Cuba. All the while the U.S. was acting in the dark, with the CIA concluding that Soviet nuclear warheads had not yet arrived in Cuba to arm the missiles. They had.

Shortly after midnight, in the early morning of Black Saturday, the U.S. informed NATO that it “may find it necessary within a very short time” to attack Cuba. At noon, a U-2 flight over Cuba was shot down, killing the pilot. On all sides, war — potentially nuclear war — seemed likely, if not inevitable.

But that night, Kennedy made the most important presidential decision in history: He accepted an offer from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to remove the U.S. missiles in Italy and Turkey in return for the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. But the U.S. part of the bargain was kept secret from Americans. The administration maintained that Kennedy had forced the Soviets to give in, giving them nothing.

That was, of course, more than frightening enough. But here’s the rest of the story.

On October 27, a U.S. Navy ship participating in the blockade dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine. It was only discovered years later that not only was the submarine armed with nuclear torpedoes, but also was out of radio contact with the Soviet government and believed that the war had begun. The captain wanted to use the torpedoes, which almost certainly would have led to the U.S using nuclear weapons in response. However, according to Soviet protocol, the torpedoes could only be launched with the approval of all three officers aboard. One of them refused.

The U.S. also had no idea that in addition to the missiles, the Soviets had brought tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba and the troops on the ground had received permission to use them against a U.S. invasion without further authorization from Moscow. This, too, would have led to a U.S. nuclear response and Armageddon. McNamara first learned this when attending a Havana conference organized by Blight and Lang in 1992, on the 30th anniversary of the crisis. McNamara had also come to believe by Black Saturday that an invasion might be necessary. Blight and Lang report that McNamara turned pale and was temporarily speechless as he listened to an aged Soviet general describe the existence of the tactical nuclear weapons. When he spoke, it was to ask the translator to repeat himself.

Castro, too, had his preconceptions shattered at the conference. He had come to believe that the Kennedy administration was determined to invade Cuba again, nuclear weapons or not, and this time crush its young government and society. Cuba’s only choice was either to accept its destruction, or be destroyed and take America with it. Castro had therefore written a telegram to Khrushchev that arrived on October 27, beseeching him to use the Soviet Union’s full nuclear might against the U.S. if an invasion took place. But this was all wrong, McNamara told Castro: After the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy had decided that another invasion attempt was foolish.

So in the end, we’re not here to think about the 56th anniversary of Black Saturday because of our overweening military might, or because we forced our adversaries to bend to our will. It’s just the opposite, plus an extraordinary run of serendipitous flukes.

But what we can be sure of is that if people like Trump and Bolton had been in charge in 1962, then today there would be no discussion of the INF treaty — because there would be no treaty and no one to discuss it. It’s also certain that on our current trajectory, the day will come when the world will face a similar crisis. That time we won’t get the same roll of the dice. The hard reality of the Cuban missile crisis is that, as Blight and Lang put it, “either we put an end to nuclear weapons, or they will put an end to us.”


UK: Putin’s Passport Found at Magna Carta Theft Scene – 28 Oct 2018

Magna CartaPutin Passport

Salisbury Cathedral:  A man has been arrested after he smashed the protective glass covering the famed historical document ‘The Magna Carta’ where the copy was on display in the cathedral.  The incident took place on Thursday afternoon the 25th of October.  While the robber was caught another man who may have handed the assailant the hammer escaped.  Police report that a passport dropped by the accomplice who eluded capture appears to belong to the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.  Experts speculate that Putin wanted to have the document in order to blackmail the UK government in the same way that Putin is blackmailing US President Donald Trump. 

The cathedral has been the focus of a lot of international attention following the Skripal poisoning case, with the two suspects telling RT they were visiting the site because of its “famous 123 meter spire.”  This is an obvious Russian follow up activity that is exactly the type of thing Putin would dream up.  Putin was a KGB secret police agent in East Germany in the 1980’s and is familiar with ‘cloak and dagger’ black operations. 

Internet detectives immediately pointed the finger at the Russians joining the consent manufacturers in solving the crime with hardly any effort.  Blame the Russians.  Every half wit knows they are guilty. 


The Magna Carta is an important historical document that helped weaken the king’s centralized power and granted more powers to the feudal war lords thus helping to keep the Middle Ages going for extra centuries.  Somehow that is now interpreted as a first step towards ‘democracy.’  Of course Putin hates democracy and seeks to gain more centralized power so stealing the Magna Carta would be a triumph like when Hitler found the lost Arc of the Covenant.  

Is a Little Drinking Really so Bad? – Maybe – by Hallie Levine (AARP) 20 Sept 2018

Outdoor fall setting with multiple glasses of wine sitting on a table.


If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t think twice about enjoying a big glass (or two) of wine with your dinner every night or settling into your favorite armchair with a Scotch every evening. After all, studies have shown that an occasional cocktail is actually good for you, right?

Unfortunately, a raft of new research appears to burst that big champagne bubble. Not only do these headline-making studies put a big question mark next to the idea that drinking wine helps your heart, they also take aim at moderate drinking in particular, showing that drinking too much for your health might be drinking what seems to you like not that much at all.

One of the big pieces of research that’s driving home this point was published last month in the Lancet. It was notable because it combined almost 600 studies on how much people drank across the globe and what the effects were on their health. The big takeaway from it was that worldwide, drinking — and not only heavy drinking— was linked to deaths from not only car accidents and liver disease but also cancer, tuberculosis and heart disease.

Some researchers suggested that you can’t compare the results of drinking across countries where the top risks of death vary widely (in some places, TB; in the U.S., heart disease.) Still, the study, and others like it, cast doubt on the idea of the protective health benefits of a glass of red wine, something that’s been held as true since the 1980s, when researchers began exploring the “French paradox” to try to figure out why the country had such low rates of heart disease despite a diet high in saturated fat. They quickly decided it was thanks to drinking copious amounts of red wine, which contains heart-healthy antioxidants such as resveratrol, procyanidins and quercetin. Studies began to show drinking vino correlated with lower rates of death from heart disease; in an even happier twist, research showed other types of alcohol, like beer and liquor, bestowed cardiovascular benefits.

But more recent studies have told a different story about liquor as heart health elixir. A University of Cambridge analysis published earlier this year, for example, looked at almost 600,000 drinkers and found that sipping more than five alcoholic drinks a week raised risk of dying from … heart disease. (It also found that people who consumed more than 10 drinks per week had one to two years’ shorter life expectancy overall, while those who downed at least 18 shaved four to five years off their life.) Other research has actually found the people who have a genetic variant that suppresses the desire to drink alcohol have a lower risk of developing heart disease. “Those studies poke holes in the belief that alcohol is protective against developing heart disease,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Still, other experts say you don’t need to toss your nightcap out just yet. “I don’t think this analysis should change conclusions or recommendations about moderate alcohol consumption,” says Walter Willett, M.D., professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s important to keep this in perspective — the risks from just one drink a day are much smaller than those of smoking or being obese.” While he believes the current recommended limit of one drink a day for women and two for men are reasonable, “this does need to be considered on an individual basis with your health care provider,” he says. A young, healthy woman with a family history of breast cancer, for example, may want to avoid alcohol entirely, since even small amounts slightly raise cancer risk. But for most older adults, moderate drinking is not off the table, provided you follow these four caveats:

Stick like glue to “moderate” drinking

According to the federal government, that’s defined as no more than a drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. But it’s also important to get a clear picture of what a drink is. “So many people whip out a gigantic wine glass and fill it to the top with their favorite merlot — that’s not one drink, that’s two to four,” says Mozaffarian. A standard drink consists of either 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka or whiskey, or 8-9 ounces of malt liquor. If you’re in doubt, you can always measure it out. “At this level, risk for health problems is minimal,” says Michael Hochman, M.D., director of the Gehr Family Center for Health Systems Science at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. The Lancet analysis found only a .5 percent higher risk of developing an alcohol-related health problem among those who consume only a drink per day.

Don’t “bank” your drinks

You may wonder if you’re in the “safe” zone because you drink only two to three times a week, but have multiple drinks each time. You’re not. This type of drinking puts stress on your liver, can increase your blood pressure, and increases your risk of doing something reckless, like driving drunk. Even if you drink wine only twice a week, stay within the daily recommended limits. “As you get older, you’re more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, because your body loses its ability to metabolize it as efficiently — so as a result, you’re more likely to feel its effects,” adds Hochman. This in turn can set you up for things such as falls.

Don’t drink at all if you have liver disease or you’re at risk for developing it

The older you are, the more likely you are to develop fatty liver disease, a condition where too much fat is stored in your liver cells, says Jamile Wakim-Fleming, a gastroenterologist specializing in liver disease at the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors often order liver function tests as part of your regular checkup, especially if you’re on medications that can affect your liver function, such as statins. If your most recent blood work has shown elevations in liver enzymes such as alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST) or alkaline phosphatase (ALP), you should avoid alcohol completely.

Don’t drink because you think it’s good for your health

If you’ve had your nightly martini ritual for the last 30 years, it’s fine to continue it, but don’t start drinking because you think it’s good for you. “There’s never been a guideline issued by groups such as the American Heart Association or the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommending alcohol; the language has always been, if you do drink, do it in moderation,” says Mozaffarian.



Changing Nature of Intimate and Sexual Relationships in Later Life – by Pepper Schwartz and Nicholas Velotta (Journal of Aging Life Care) Spring 2018


(Antique sex image)

ABSTRACT: Studies regarding sexuality have generally overlooked the growing population of older adults over 50. In this article, we discuss and elaborate on what information we do have regarding intimacy and sexuality post-50 including sexual behaviors, sexual satisfaction ratings, and how the policies within long-term care facilities (LTC’s) and elderly housing impact sexual expression later in life. All these facets of aging and sexuality are also examined in the context of aging LGBT individuals who often benefit from specialized methods of treatment by their healthcare professionals.

One of the most common comments today about people over 50 is that each decade is somehow ten or more years younger now than it used to be. It is not our task here to marshal evidence to the truth or fiction of this assertion, but intuitively, it seems right. As we look at aging today, it does appear true that age is enacted differently than it was in previous older generations and that vitality—asserted in longer careers, second and third marriages, and late child rearing—has changed the face and felt experience of the last quartile of life.

One cannot discount the impact of culture and cohort. Much of what we have to say will hinge on the fact that the Baby Boom generation, born between 1945 and 1964, have reinvented each phase of their lives. Being the largest generation, they turned the spotlight on themselves in adolescence and at every phase thereafter. It is not surprising then that the leading edge of this group (now in their early 70s) have remained a center of attention, refusing to retire to previous stereotypes of aging such as being content to center their lives purely around their grandchildren, serving as handmaidens to their adult child’s needs. They are not only working longer — either be-cause of economic need or professional fulfillment — they are changing the way they use their recreational time, even opting for world travel or discovering new interests, and perhaps even building new careers (see Miller, 2017). They are also researching supplements and healthy foods, using creams that promise rejuvenation, lifting weights, and dressing in contemporary modes. Gyms are now full of exercising oldsters doing Yoga and Pilates. A gener-ation whose parents would never have been caught anywhere but on a farm in jeans, wear leggings and work-out clothes on the street. Elderly men and women are frequently doing a number of things out of with sync with “traditional” values and behaviors. For example, having multiple marriages (many in old age), living together without getting married, and being open and proud of their sexual identity—often declaring late in life that they are gay, lesbian, or transsexual.

The ubiquitous media in our culture supports and celebrates youthfulness but is beginning to integrate more and more programs featuring older actors retaining their vitality. Dating sites show large numbers of people over 60 in their membership with some sites such as SeniorFriendFinder and HowAboutWe openly recruiting older men and women as their clientele. Pharmaceutical ads show youthful retirees, workers, and grandparents enjoying life in physically demanding ways and, of course, ads for Viagra and Cialis are predicated on older men wanting, as well as needing, medications for sexual intercourse.

Here, however, we come to a point that has been much less discussed or changed in the reframing of a more vital longevity: the role sexuality plays in the revitalization process. As a nation that would much rather have sex than talk about it, there is precious little discussion about a particularly squeamish subject, sex among the aging and elderly. But despite the awkwardness surrounding the subject of sexuality in later years, we know that sexuality continues to play a part in people’s lives at any point in the life cycle. This is something we want to address so that we all can be more knowledgeable about people’s needs and desires. Though there is much to be said about the topic, in our brief coverage we will address key aspects of aging and sexuality such as the frequencies of sexual encounters, how satisfying sex can be in later life, the influence that having an intimate relationship can have on this population, which major illnesses or physical impairments have the potential to dampen sexuality, especially for seniors, and how long-term care facilities (LTC’s) can both promote and interfere with resident’s sexual longevity. It is worth noting that this is not a complete picture, but rather a review of curated information. Because of this, we emphasize the need to take the findings presented as a partial contribution in a complex narrative.

A (Sexually) Active Population

There is certainly evidence that older and elderly people have liberalized their ideas about sex. An AARP study (Fisher et al., 2010) showed that attitudes about sex among older populations have continually gotten more accepting and approving. Whereas 73% of people affirmed the statement “there is too much emphasis on sex in our culture today” in 1999, by 2004 only 65% of respondents felt that way. We believe this shows an increasing comfort with and desire for sexuality as a core ingredient to happiness in later life as well as in young adulthood and middle age. Even with the tabooed nature of elderly sexuality, many Baby Boomers refuse to be inhibited.

Part of this may be due to a reluctance to give up on any of the joys and perks of their youth but it also may be part of their attachment to healthy living. There is certainly some evidence that exercise helps people connect to their bodies, and allows more use of those bodies longer. Pilates, for example, strengthens the core and pubic muscles and has even been suggested as a way of strengthening orgasms (see Herbenick, 2015). Additionally, research shows that having a sexual life is correlated with many components of leading a healthy lifestyle including (but not limited to) relationship satisfaction, overall happiness, and mental health (Blanchflower & Oswald, 2004; Fisher et al., 2010; Mcfarland, Uecker, & Regnerus, 2011; Schwartz & Velotta, 2018; Zeiss & Kasl-Godley, 2001)—and so, the re-emergence of sexuality as a positive good for older people could have important ramifications for health and happiness.

Given that the preponderance of sexuality research focuses on the desires, frequencies, and satisfactions of heterosexual men and women in their reproductive years, there have been few reviews and studies that tap into the over-50 population. Even so, there are some that reveal quite a bit about this growing populace. In the 2009 AARP study mentioned earlier, for example, 75% of respondents believed “a satisfying sex life is important”. A recent literature review found that the older population is very interested in remaining sexually viable even with harsh social barriers impeding access to this desire (Schwartz, Diefendorf, & McGlynn-Wright, 2014). Whether that attitude comes from being more active in general, feeling more entitled to have a thriving sexual life, or liberalized notions of masturbation (with more access via online to vibrators or sex aides) is not clear, but there certainly has been more conversations about sex among the elderly. AARP has published columns on sex for the last few decades and movies and TV programs like Netflix’s Grace and Frankie (starring Lilly Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston, and Tom Selleck), Amazon’s Transparent (with Jeffrey Tambor as a transwoman), It’s Complicated (with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin), and Mamma Mia! (with Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgård, and Meryl Streep again) are rare but still support the theme that having sex, passion, and romance over 60 is not ridiculous.

It’s not just a Hollywood fantasy, however. The current literature confirms this message of sexual and romantic engagement at older ages. Men and women over 60 continue to live sexual lives with or without partners (Schwartz & Velotta, 2018). According to a 2009 AARP survey on midlife and older adults, nearly 40% of married older adults are having sex at least once a week, and 60% of partnered older adults report sex at least once a month (Fisher et al., 2010). The survey also found that almost 50% of older singletons who are dating or engaged reported having sex once a week. So, although it is true that sexual frequency reduces over time—both with older age and longer duration of relationships—much of what determines sexual activity has to do with psychosocial factors like internalized ageism and stigma, poor body image, poor relationship quality, or absence of a partner (these last two are especially true for women). Thus, the reduction in sexual frequency is not as closely linked to the biological effects of old age as many people may think.

If we look not just at frequencies but also at sexual satisfaction, the data show that a high percentage of older people are enjoying their sexual lives. There are many factors that make sexual satisfaction fluctuate, but the potential for pleasure from sexual activity does not diminish with age (Penhollow, Young, & Denny, 2009). In his study with older adults currently in relationships, Gillespie (2016) found that sexual communication (partners speaking about their needs from sex) and more variety in sexual encounters (e.g. trying new positions, locations, or sex toys) were major predictors of both high sexual satisfaction and high sexual frequency. For older adult partners who are married or cohabitating, sexual satisfaction ratings remain around the 50% mark (Fisher et al., 2010). Unfortunately, it does seem that individuals post-45 have a harder time remaining sexually satisfied if they are not paired, or do not actively date. AARP’s data showed only 10% of older men and women who are single and are not currently dating report being sexually satisfied (Fisher et al., 2010). More encouraging, that number jumps to 60% for those over 45 who are actively dating.

Research on older people makes it clear that having some kind of relationship, however casual, is closely tied to having any sexual activity and increasing both sexual and personal satisfaction. However, the research literature notes that younger adults often see romance among the elderly— and especially among postmenopausal women—as unnatural or unnecessary (Bouman, Arcelus, & Benbow, 2007; Hinchliff & Gott, 2008). In the senior author’s large university class on human sexuality, sex education videos showing older men and women often get reactions of disgust and discomfort. If the senior men and women are merely holding hands or kissing, they receive a more positive reception but this reception seems to categorize the couple as “adorable” or “cute”. Both response types dehumanize men and women over a certain age who are genuinely interested in love, romance, and yes, sex. Older adults are, of course, quite capable of finding love, enjoying one-night flings, or reigniting the flame with a high school sweetheart at a 50th reunion, and take umbrage at not being taken seriously. If professionals in the helping and medical specialties who work with older populations show that they do not think these men and women have sexual thoughts or urges or behaviors, it follows that their clients, advisees, or patients will feel that the full scope of who they are is unseen and denigrated.

LGBT Sexual Activity

We also think it is important to include the special needs of older LGBT population in our discussion. Though the data is sparse (almost non-existent for bisexual and transsexual individuals) we will briefly touch on these populations’ frequencies and satisfaction ratings. Before continuing it is important to note that in combining several types of sexual minorities into one section we are not attempting to portray homogeneity in their needs or behaviors. Our more general approach to these populations is simply due to the paucity of scholarly data on older sexual minorities.

Regarding gay male sexuality post-50, we find that having a stable partner does not impact sexual frequency nearly as much as it does for heterosexuals. When asking gay men (n = 24,787) about their most recent sexual encounters, Rosenberger et al. (2011) found that the majority of sexual acts in all age brackets surveyed were with a partner that participants labeled an acquaintance. About 30% of sexual encounters in the 60-year-old-and-up brackets were with a boyfriend, significant other, or someone the respondent was dating. Over 60% of sexual encounters happened within the past week for this population. And with around half the gay population post- 40 reporting that they are currently partnered (Lyons, Pitts, & Grierson, 2013) it is likely that many of these frequent acquaintance hook-ups reflect a non-monogamous culture among gay men—something that has been observed in other literature (Lyons et al., 2013; Northrup, Schwartz, & Witte, 2012). Alongside their high frequency rates, gay men over 60 also have relatively high sexual satisfaction ratings, with around 40% saying they are “very satisfied” (Lyons et al., 2013). Overall the older gay male population, when given the right environment, seem very capable of maintaining long-term sexual functioning and satisfaction.

Factors that are influential for female sexuality such as: relationship quality, presence of a partner, and emotional fulfillment are especially vital for lesbians. Perhaps the most significant predictor of sexual longevity in the partnered lesbian population is relationship quality which is positively correlated with arousability, sexual functioning, pleasure, and satisfaction (Henderson, Lehavot, & Simoni, 2009; Tracy & Junginger, 2007). Some early literature on the sexual frequencies of older lesbians found that there is a decline over the course of their relationships (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Loulan, 1987). Unfortunately, we simply lack empirical, contemporary evidence on average lesbian sexual frequencies as they stand today. Some have explored whether the parameters used to measure such frequencies should be modified for lesbian samples in order to reflect the fluid, less episodic nature of lesbian sexuality (Meana, Rakipi, Weeks, & Lykins, 2006). It is important to observe, however, that lesbians value the companionate qualities of their partnerships, and do not necessarily feel that the relationship is less intimate if they have low sexual frequency (Averett, Yoon, & Jenkins, 2012). That said, lesbians engage in more masturbatory behavior than their heterosexual female counterparts and are more inclined to integrate masturbation into partnered sex (Hurlbert & Apt, 1993; Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994) as well as have more positive attitudes towards masturbation in general than heterosexual women (Writer, 2012).

The most unstudied sexual minority group, especially in terms of sexuality in old age, is bisexuals. From the sparse data we have, it appears that older bisexual men are very likely to have had their last sexual encounter with an acquaintance rather than a partner (Rosenberger et al., 2011) and may be more generally cut off from positive social or intimate relationships. Some indication that this is true is that research has shown higher rates of internalized stigma and smaller social networks for male bisexuals and a higher likelihood for them to live alone (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2013). Additionally, because bisexuals are seen as emotionally or sexually dangerous by both heterosexuals and homosexuals, bisexuals are likely to keep their sexual lives private, undiscussed or remain “in the closet”. They may only identify by their current sexual behavior, which may give less than the whole picture to professionals trying to help them or place them in a comfortable housing or community environment. We feel this is a very under-researched population and therefore our understanding of what this population needs later in life is very limited.

Illness, Impairment, And Sexuality Later In Life

Even with many older adults living longer, more sexually fulfilling lives, sundry health-related conditions impact the ability of some seniors to perform sexual acts. Here we have devoted space to discuss a few select ailments that are known to effect sexuality for older men and women.


Though technological advances and increased awareness have allowed many cases of cancer to be detected earlier than in previous generations, breast and prostate cancer remain a prevalent problem for many older individuals.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a serious risk for women post 40 who comprise around 95% of those diagnosed, with older age brackets experiencing an even higher risk of developing the disease (American Cancer Society, 2016a; National Cancer Institute, 2015). Chemotherapy, which is still regularly used in the treatment of breast cancer, has a host of negative physiological side effects that are temporary, but many effects can be quite severe and carry on months after ending chemo (Biglia et al., 2010; Boswell & Dizon, 2015; Malinovszky et al., 2006). Reported sexual consequences include reductions in: sexual desire or interest, arousability, sexual functioning, and the overall quality of relationship with partner (Biglia et al., 2010; Knobf, 2001). Another treatment method, radiation therapy (RT), has shown less clear links between onset of treatment and sexual dysfunction (it is often used in conjunction with other techniques, making it difficult to isolate how RT specifically affects sexual health). That said, Boswell and Dizon (2015) suggest that the locoregional impairments that RT can cause (e.g. pain in breasts and loss of flexibility) could contribute to the reductions in sexual functioning we see in women exposed to it.

The most severe of treatment for breast cancer is surgical removal of tissue. There are various types of breast surgery, ranging from mastectomy-only (with no following breast reconstruction) to lumpectomy (removal of only cancerous tissue) and mastectomy with reconstruction, but a common theme in literature suggests that mastectomy-only (MO) patients have worse sexual consequences than patients who elect for the other surgeries.

Studies find that those treated with MO operations are more likely to experience low levels of sexual desire, arousal, perceived sexual attractiveness, sexual functioning, and encounter greater difficulties in achieving orgasm (Aerts, Christiaens, Enzlin, Neven, & Amant, 2014; Al-Ghazal, Fallowfield, & Blamey, 2000). And yet another aspect that MO patients have to face is the loss of their breasts—something that can alter body image significantly. Of those women who get any of the three cancer removing surgeries listed, MO patients report significantly worse body image than their peers (Engel, Kerr, Schlesinger‐raab, Sauer, & Hölzel, 2004; Markopoulos et al., 2009). This low body image implies that even for those with high sexual functionality after surgery, some older women may feel too self-conscious to engage sexually, a disappointing finding to discover.

Prostate Cancer

For men, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases exponentially with age and about one in seven men is diagnosed in their lifetime (American Cancer Society, 2016b; Prostate Cancer Foundation, 2016). And along with concern for one’s survival, prostate cancer can have devastating effects on sexual functioning and satisfaction.

As is the case for breast cancer, most male cancer patients must undergo radiation therapy to treat their prostate. This technique, though effective for treating prostate cancer, has been associated with low levels of sexual desire, decreased frequency of erections, lowering importance of sex life post treatment, reduced orgasm intensity, and an uptick in ejaculation dysfunctions (e.g. no ejaculate during orgasm or pain during ejaculation) (Helgason, Fredrikson, Adolfsson, & Steineck, 1995; Incrocci, 2002, 2006, 2015; Incrocci & Slob, 2002; Incrocci, Slob, & Levendag, 2002; Olsson, 2015).

For patients with worse prognoses, doctors may choose to perform a radical prostatectomy and that procedure results in erectile dysfunction for 60-70% of patients (Chung & Gillman, 2014). Some additional post operation difficulties with radical prostatectomies include: incontinence during sexual activity, less or no sperm emission at orgasm, changes in penile appearance (e.g. length and curvature), and decreased pleasure during orgasm (Ambruosi et al., 2009; Chung & Gillman, 2014; Dubbelman, Wildhagen, Schröder, Bangma, & Dohle, 2010). And although Dubbelman et al. (2010) found there are nerve-sparing procedures that doctors can follow in order to reduce damage to orgasmic functioning, being over the age of 60 was one of the strongest predictors associated with the inability to achieve climax post-radical prostatectomy.

There are various treatment methods that can help men who experience difficulty after their prostate cancer treatment, ranging from highly effective sildenafil citrate (i.e. Viagra) (Incrocci, Koper, Hop, & Slob, 2001) to intracavernosal injections administered into the base of the penis prior to sex. Other non-pharmaceutical methods are discussed by authors Canalichio, Jaber, and Wang (2015) in their review of hormonal and non-hormonal based treatments for sexual functioning post-prostate cancer surgery.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States (2014) found that 25.9% of Americans 65 years of age and up were diabetic, men making up a significant majority of this population. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is commonly comorbid in male patients with diabetes due to a combination of various blood circulation difficulties and can often be alleviated with the use of oral medications such as Viagra (Hatzimouratidis & Hatzichristou, 2014). With treatment for diabetes induced ED available, it is somewhat surprising that men with diabetes are more likely to see their ED as severe and permanent when compared to their non-diabetic counterparts (Eardley, Fisher, Rosen, Nadal, & Sand, 2007). Perhaps showing the value of a medical staff who can initiate conversations about sexual functioning with their diabetic male patients.

The effects of diabetes on older women is relatively unclear. The disorder impacts vascular and neurogenic functioning which may be associated with lowered desire and reduced lubrication but these symptoms are also present in many non-diabetic post-menopausal women, making it harder to discern if the root cause is diabetes or other, more general aging processes (Zeiss & Kasl-Godley, 2001).


Of the 35 million-plus Americans over 65, more than 6.5 million are impacted by depression (Reyers, 2013). We do not have room in this paper to discuss all the concomitants of this all too common problem, but suffice it to say that depression can, and frequently does, wipe out both the desire for sex and arousal when having sex. Often patients are so severely impacted that a medical professional will not think twice about giving a high dosage anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication that affects sexual functioning since they are far more worried about their patient’s mental state than their sexual life. Still, this disregard for the concomitant impact of anti-depressives and anxiolytics can worsen the situation for the suffering patient. Often patients are not even told about the impact the medication will have on their sex life or simply don’t bring up the sexual side effects they are experiencing when with their pre-scribing doctor (Ferguson, 2001). This dynamic impedes possible discussion on how a lower dosage or a different drug might affect their sexual life less. As important, there may also be an impact of these drugs on the patients ability to love and feel affectionate (Marazziti et al., 2014). This, of course, complicates the couple’s life together and may result in a partner feeling unloved or appreciated, not realizing that some of the flat affect is drug induced.

Long-Term Care Facilities

One of the most important decisions that older people (and often their families) must make is whether or not they will require long-term caregiving in a facility or home. As we have illustrated, sexual activity remains an important aspect of many aging men and women’s quality of life. However, the facility and policies of nursing homes often contain negative views toward sexual behavior in the aging population (Bauer, Mcauliffe, & Nay, 2007; Bouman et al., 2007; Hinrichs & Vacha-Haase, 2010; Parker, 2006). Desexualization of this population may serve as a convenience for caretakers, allowing them to escape uncomfortable and complex discussions about elderly sexuality. They may also simply lack knowledge and feel unqualified to speak with residents. Issues such as these are especially poignant for LGBT individuals who find it difficult to express their sexuality in LTC settings due to assumed heterosexuality and homophobic dispositions within the staff (Hinrichs & Vacha-Haase, 2010).

LGBT residents may conceal their sexual orientation as well as other pertinent information (e.g. HIV status) to reduce stigmatic treatment by health workers (Griebling, 2016). A recent study using lesbian transgendered participants found that although this population felt that they had aged successfully, major concerns still plagued them about late-life events and legal difficulties (Witten, 2015). Given that many in the LGBT community rely on “chosen families” for social support (networks of non-biological family members), when judgments must be made on whether someone is capable of giving sexual consent (for example, when a person has fading cognitive abilities or has dementia), a lack of proper documentation of who is entitled to claim a family or spousal relationship, may make it difficult for those closest to the client to protect his or her interests. Legal complications and negative attitudes found in caregivers and family members, surely contribute to LGBT nervousness in regards to their sexual freedom being honored when living under institutional care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or other kinds of senior communities.

One solution for older LGBT patients nervous about sexual restrictions imposed within heterosexual LTC communities are homes built exclusively for sexual minorities which have staff trained in facilitating the specialized needs of its members. In addition to expanding LGBT-specialized communities, a broader message to healthcare providers treating LGBT patients can be to develop a strong sense of trust with minority clients. Trust often enables LGBT patients to be open and honest about personal matters pertaining to their sexuality (Dibble, Eliason, Dejoseph, & Chinn, 2008) and will likely increase sexual liberties for minority members within primarily heterosexual facilities. This is especially important for less experienced and younger staff members who show higher rates of sexual restrictiveness towards patients than more experienced, senior faculty (Bouman et al., 2007).

Regardless of sexual orientation, the recognition of sexual rights within LTC’s is meaningful to many. Unfortu-nately, residents have reported feeling that their providers care little about fostering an intimate environment for couples and few facilities even permit double-beds (Bouman et al., 2007). Additionally, the atmosphere of nursing homes can be quite open and indirectly oppose residents’ desires to have private moments with partners (Fran-kowski & Clark, 2009). It is not difficult to imagine how unlocked-door policies, community-based activities, and restrictions on sharing sleeping quarters may negatively impact tenants’ ability to engage in sexual activities.

Roach (2004) describes the conduct and actions that caregivers and staff take to restrict sexual contact between residents as the guarding discomfort paradigm. This is because the incentive for preventing such behaviors is to “guard” against the discomfort that seeing older men and women in sexual or intimate situations would cause staffers. After her interviews with nursing and LTC staff, Roach concluded that the staff’s restrictive actions are not only a product of their individual predispositions towards sexuality but also a product influenced by the general “ethos of an organization” (p. 174).

Should a resident have a cognitive disability, the nursing home’s restrictiveness may be even more inhibiting. Individuals who display inappropriate sexual behavior (ISB), for example, are regularly removed from ISB-triggering stimuli or given distractive tasks. And— in cases where such actions do not reduce patients’ ISB—practitioners may medicate the individual often with prescriptions used off-label (Dominguez & Barbagallo, 2016). Some research on inappropriate sexual behavior among the cognitively impaired indicates however that ISB is rarely motivated by sexual urges. Usually the patient’s intentions are to communicate something entirely appropriate, but their actions are observed as a sexual act (Dominguez & Barbagallo, 2016).


In our brief review on aging and sexuality we have drawn a problematic picture that indicates that western culture still stigmatizes and/or ignores sexual desire and sexual relationships among older men and women. A review of the literatures available, indicates that there is a lack of recognition of older people’s sexual needs, and that professionals who are supposed to be working in behalf of people in late middle or old age as caretakers, medical and mental health professionals, or as social workers and para-professionals, may not accord older people the same sexual rights as they do to younger populations. This may be especially true for older gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. Older men and women trying to stay vibrant as an individual, and sexually attentive to them self or with a partner, deserve more conscious concern and support for their sexual lives.

However, translating research findings into useful policies and practices can be quite complicated for the administrator overseeing a large residence community or the clinician cycling through many patients a day. Therefore, we would like to offer some of the more pragmatic steps that professionals who work with older individuals may take in order to reduce potential barriers to their clients’ ability to enjoy thriving sexual lives well past the age of 50. Firstly, care facilities may want to review their unlocked-door and single-bed policies which can be clear obstacles for the residents looking to enjoy private, intimate time with one another. Having activities where residents can partake in pairs (as opposed to as a group) is another measure that can enable more opportunities for residents to experience intimate, romantic connections with one another. For the LGBT population, facilities may explore having staff specialized in serving older LGBT residents. This could enable their clientele who are in the sexual minority to develop more trusting bonds with a group of care staff that is specifical-ly trained for providing aide to their unique concerns later in life.

For clinicians who require knowledge about sexual activity, conscious efforts to assess implicit biases could be helpful in reducing issues related to assumed heterosexuality (for LGBT patients) and presumptions of sexual inactivity later in life (for all older patients). For example, Aging Life Care Professionals may want to ask whether their patient has a male or female partner prior to discussing any sexual activity to avoid the use of inaccurate pronouns or non-applicable sexual behaviors that may make their patient uncomfortable to answer (e.g. asking a gay male how frequently he engages in vaginal intercourse with his partner). It may also benefit practitioners to foster open dialogs about their patients’ sexual frequencies and satisfaction—topics often left untouched by doctors treating older patients who are also less likely to seek help with sexual needs when their doctors do not ask about their sexual behavior during visits (Hinchliff & Gott, 2011). Doctors and medical professionals should consider administering an annual questionnaire during their patients’ check-ups that covers sexual issues as areas that the patient might like to discuss. Among the potential areas of concern, patients could answer items (as appropriate) about: the presence of erectile dysfunction, pain during intercourse or other penetrative sexual behaviors, genital pain in the absence of sexual behavior, undesired loss of sexual interest or arousal, and the desire to hear about medications that affect sexual behavior or get a referral to see a doctor who specializes in sexual medicine. Of course, there are many more actions that care workers can take to better their clientele’s sexual autonomy later in life, but these are a few good starting points. With the recent medical innovations in sexual health it is important to keep the above-50 population informed as to what their options are to increase their sexual longevity, and in so doing increase their sexual agency for the rest of their life.


Latin America’s Killer Culture – 8% of the World’s Population – 38% of the Murders – 140,000 in One Year (The Economist) 5 April 2018

Shining light on South America’s homicide epidemic

Latin America’s violent crime, and ways of dealing with it, have lessons for the rest of the world
South America Body Bag
ON JANUARY 11th 2017 no one was murdered in El Salvador—a fact that was reported as far away as New Zealand, Thailand and Russia. At the time, the Central American country had the highest murder rate in the world: 81 per 100,000, more than ten times the global average (see chart 1). On most days more than a dozen Salvadoreans lost their lives to gang warfare, police shootings and domestic disputes. On bad days, the number could be three times higher. Murder dominated newspaper headlines, campaign speeches and dinner-table discussions. A day without it was something to celebrate—and reflect on.
Latin America, which boasts just 8% of the world’s population, accounts for 38% of its criminal killing. The butcher’s bill in the region came to around 140,000 people last year, more than have been lost in wars around the world in almost all of the years this century. And the crime is becoming ever more common.
Latin America is also the most urbanised part of the developing world, and that is not a coincidence. Its urban population grew in the second half of the 20th century much faster than those of other regions. By 2000 over three-quarters of the population lived in towns and cities—roughly twice the proportion in Asia and Africa. That move from the countryside concentrated risk factors for lethal violence—inequality, unemployed young men, dislocated families, poor government services, easily available firearms—even as it also brought together the factors needed for economic growth. As other developing economies catch up with Latin America’s level of urbanisation, understanding the process’s links to criminality, and which forms of policing best sever them, is of international concern.
In this regard, it is worth noting that the region’s countries vary a lot. Some countries in the south of the region have urbanised as fast as those in its north, but murder rates in the south remain comparable to that of the United States. The drug trade in the northern part of the region undoubtedly makes a big difference. And some countries where murder rose have since seen it decline.
If lessons from those countries that have turned the tide were promulgated a lot of good could be done. The Small Arms Survey, a research group, has three scenarios for the world up to 2030: one in which murder trends continue; one in which the trends seen in the countries that are doing best with murder in their region are exported to their neighbours; and one in which trends start to match those in some of the worst-performing countries. The difference between the best case and the worst adds up to 2.6m lives.
Latin America’s crisis has been mounting at a time when, in the developed world, murder has been becoming rarer. As Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, shows in “Uneasy Peace”, a recent book, the causes of the “great crime decline” America has seen since 1990 are complex and controversial: mass incarceration almost certainly reduced violence, though its impact diminished as a greater share of the population got locked up, leaving broken families on the outside.
Other factors mattered more in other countries. But most of the rich world saw a new stress on the use of data, especially geospatial data, in policing and crime-prevention efforts. That definitely played a role. Some approaches built on knowing precisely what was happening where to whom and why were criticised in terms of both cost efficiency and social justice: “Broken windows” policies stamped down on petty crimes it might have been safe to neglect; “stop-and-frisk” disproportionately targeted young men of colour. But there is now little doubt that, overall, data-driven approaches helped bring down crime rates. And when they succeeded they fostered a new confidence in the police, which encouraged community-driven efforts to reduce crime and co-operate with the authorities, all of which further reduced violence. As Adam Gopnik noted in a review of Mr Sharkey’s book for the New Yorker, a virtuous circle started to roll.
The Latin American trajectory has been the reverse of the rich world’s: the time of greatest concern in the United States was the time of greatest optimism in the south. In the late 1980s and the 1990s the civil wars and military dictatorships that characterised the 1970s and 1980s were giving way to democracies. Tens of millions—some displaced from their farms by guerrilla warfare—flocked to the cities, a willing workforce for the rapid industrialisation that governments hoped to bring about by opening their doors to global trade.
But the economic growth that followed did not match this influx, or the demographic “youth bulge” that exacerbated its effects. Nor did government services such as clinics and schools. People crowded into slums, shantytowns and favelas from where they were hard put to reach jobs. By the early 2010s, the bloodshed in some cities had reached a pitch comparable to that of the internal conflicts that had torn up the region decades earlier (see chart 2).
The causes of the bloodshed varied. Extortion gangs were responsible for a lot in some parts of Central America, drug-trafficking in others (though Costa Rica and Panama, both on the drug route, are relatively peaceful). Institutional weaknesses were widespread. Police and prosecutors in the region were badly trained, underpaid and often corrupt. In some places only one in 20 reports of murder led to a conviction. A penchant for ineffective but brutal government crackdowns often made things worse; grossly overpopulated prisons became crime factories rather than rehabilitation centres. To different degrees in different places, these factors all contributed to a vicious circle, rather than a virtuous one: the worse things got, the less effective efforts to stem the tide became.
But one factor seemed to be constant; where murder was high it was also heavily concentrated. According to Robert Muggah of the Igarapé Institute, a Brazil-based think-tank, approximately 80% of homicides in large and medium-sized Latin American cities occur on just 2% of the streets. Identifying those hotspots is crucial. Randomised-controlled trials of homicide-reduction programmes in cities like New York and Los Angeles have shown that policies which use reliable data to give priority to high-risk places, people and behaviour have the best shot at success.
In most of Latin America those data are lacking. Many homicide reports say only whether the crime was a knifing or a shooting; locations may just be the name of a town. In a report the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) published in 2012, Lawrence Sherman, a criminologist, concluded that this chronic lack of data “is not an obstacle to solving an important problem. It is the most important problem.”
Truths, not truces
Take El Salvador. In 1996 José Miguel Cruz, a political scientist, gathered data for the IDB’s first regional homicide report there: mayors sent him slips of paper with scrawled tallies marking murders. Today police, prosecutors and coroners meet monthly in San Salvador, the capital, to sort out national totals. But little attempt has been made to understand them, and they are not well used. “Plan Safe El Salvador”, launched in 2015 with support from various international organisations, called for resources to be funnelled to the 50 municipalities which statistics showed to be at highest risk. But because the “municipality prioritisation index” used total crime numbers, rather than rates per person, the plan’s targets for prevention projects were mostly just the biggest towns and cities.
El Salvador’s police claim to collect data good enough to make crime maps that delineate gang territories, but say they cannot release them because doing so could “compromise intelligence operations” and stigmatise residents of violent neighbourhoods. Such claims are common across the region. When they are true, the lack of transparency tends to be ill judged.
Consider the homicide report Mr Cruz worked on. He says that shortly before it was published El Salvador’s president begged the IDB to suppress his country’s figures, worried that they would hurt the economy. But the real toll on GDP comes not from reports on violence, but from violence itself. Latin American governments spend an average of 5% of their budgets on internal security—twice as much as developed countries. A recent IDB study estimates the direct costs of violent crime in the region—measured by such things as spending on police, hospitals, insurance and private security, and the lost wages of prisoners—at $236bn a year, calculated on a purchasing-power basis. At $300 per person, that is much higher than in developed countries. In El Salvador the cost of murder works out at 1% of GDP a year. Countries fear that opening data up to independent analysis will reveal the costly ineffectiveness of their policies. But until data analysis improves, their policies will continue to be ineffective, and often erratic.
That has certainly been the case in El Salvador. In 2004 President Francisco Flores put soldiers on the streets and threw thousands of gang members into prison to clamp down on crime. Murders went up. In March 2012 the government of Mauricio Funes brokered a truce between El Salvador’s three main gangs, giving imprisoned leaders luxuries like flat-screen televisions and fried chicken if they would tell their subordinates to stop killing each other. Murders halved almost overnight, and some criminologists applauded, seeing the policy as a step towards “focused deterrence”—a combination of incentives and threats that is deemed to have worked well in Los Angeles, among other places.
Others were wary, with reason. The truce soon began to unravel, and the gangs began to see violence as a bargaining tool. In early 2015 President Salvador Sánchez-Cerén sent the army back on to the streets and returned gang leaders to top-security prisons. Murders rocketed to 104 per 100,000 people. The number dropped back by 40% over the next two years, something the government put down to “extraordinary measures” in the prisons; for two years tens of thousands of gang members have seen no relatives, no doctors and no daylight. At the same time the number of members of the public shot by police has gone up 15-fold, sparking an international outcry. “The treatment that the state provides shouldn’t be as bad as the sickness itself,” says the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard. And for the past six months the murder rate has been on the rise again.
Some Salvadoreans worry their country is heading the way of Venezuela, which stopped releasing murder statistics altogether in 2005. Luisa Ortega Díaz, then Venezuela’s attorney-general, started releasing some numbers again after attending a regional conference on homicide data in 2015; last year she was sacked and subsequently fled the country. According to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which uses press reports, victimisation surveys and leaks from sympathetic government officials to track murders, Venezuela now has the world’s highest homicide rate.
Colombian data exchange
A generation ago that baleful title belonged to its neighbour, Colombia, where the drugs trade and peasants driven into slums by the civil war came together to dreadful effect. In 1994 the murder rate in Cali was 124 per 100,000 people.
Rodrigo Guerrero, the city’s mayor and a surgeon by training, launched a plan inspired by the epidemiological approach some North American cities were taking at the time. He set up “violence observatories” where police, public-health officials, academics and concerned citizens could study crime data. This revealed that most of the city’s murders took place in drunken brawls, not in conflict between gangs, and that they were late at night a day or so after payday. Restricting alcohol sales and gun permits helped cut the homicide rate by 35% in a matter of months.
Long-term results were mixed—some crime was probably displaced rather than prevented, and subsequent mayors discontinued the bans—but Mr Guerrero’s data-driven approach to violence spread. In Bogotá, the capital, data-based policing became the norm.
Some experts believe that the only way for developing countries to curb high homicide rates on a permanent basis is systemic reform. But data-driven policing can buy the time—and create the conditions of trust—needed for such reforms to take place, and can work to boost the gains from all sorts of other approaches. In Medellín, where gains against crime have been even more marked than in Cali, targeted action against the local drug cartel and guerrillas first made things safer, and improvements in infrastructure, including cable cars, helped integrate the slums into the city; but data-driven methods learned from Cali also played a role.
In 2017 Colombia announced a murder rate of 24 per 100,000 people, its lowest in 42 years. That is still high, though, and there are more problems to come. The demobilisation of the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) after decades of guerrilla war has created local power vacuums that could be filled by organised crime, especially if the government does not create opportunities for ex-combatants, coca farmers and young people. “Colombia is not approaching heaven,” says María Victoria Llorente of the Ideas for Peace Foundation. “We’re barely leaving hell, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll stay in limbo.”
A recent proliferation of violence observatories in Latin America—many modelled after Mr Guerrero’s Cali flagship—suggests that governments are realising the need for an evidence-based approach to security policy. But even now only two-thirds of the 60-odd observatories track when and where murders take place, and just half try to determine motives, according to the IDB. In 2016 Ignacio Cano, a Brazilian criminologist, looked at 93 homicide-reduction programmes in the region, including controls on alcohol in Brazil, an advertising campaign exhorting Venezuelans to “value life”, private investigators paid to help public prosecutors in Honduras, a $400m justice reform in Mexico and mediation with criminals in Jamaica and El Salvador. Some coincided with impressive drops in murder rates—but only 16% actually tried to evaluate their impact.
An international campaign called “Instinct for Life” has laid out six principles for reducing murders in Latin America by 50% over the next decade. It stresses both prevention and intervention—and in both cases it sees data as central, whether as a way of revealing what needs to be done or recording the extent to which an intervention has or has not worked. Even without state-of-the-art technology, the campaign says, police could make much better use of the information they already collect.
The rest of the world should take note. Murder already outpaces war as a cause of death. And the world is continuing to urbanise. India and China have accommodated huge increases in urban population while keeping violent crime levels relatively low, in part thanks to economic growth. But other countries exhibit many of the risk factors seen in Latin America a generation ago: widespread displacement as a result of conflict, millions of leftover guns, a demographic bulge, little by way of safety nets and corrupt, ineffective police forces.
The sooner cities and countries build good data analysis into their approach to curbing crime, the fewer of Latin America’s problems they will recapitulate. And they will also spare themselves false hope. A few weeks after that day in El Salvador in January 2017, the police concluded that a body found in a shallow grave had, in fact, been dumped there on January 11th. The murder-free day has yet to dawn.