Cunning Minx, host of the Polyamory Weekly podcast, interviews poly geezer Ken Haslam on polyamory over the age of 70
Ken, tell us who you are.
I’m an 80-year-old failing polyamorist settling down into a more conventional lifestyle in a retirement community. I was a poly activist for 15 years and ran about the country lecturing and ultimately set up the Kenneth R. Haslam Polyamory Library at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University about six or eight years ago now.
Didn’t you run the Poly Geezers list?
I am a founding member, along with another fellow, who is now dead. That’s one of the problems of getting old–sometimes you die. The Poly Geezers list died a natural death. Old polys get it; they don’t have much drama; they don’t have much to talk about!
What do you do if one partner gets dementia or is unable to have sex?
The first thing you do is to have that conversation when you’re both younger, and your brains and bodies are working well. You have these conversations before you get sick–before the age of 50. It’s important that you sit down with your partners and talk about this kind of thing. What happens when one of us gets Alzheimers? And you take it from there. You do what you always do in a poly community: you talk. You extract the information you can from each other about what you want.
Maybe a yearly Alzheimer’s checkin?
It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s out there, and it’s occurring because the population is aging. And all those young polys out there in about 10 or 15 years are gonna be old.
What other issues could an aging poly run up against?
Divorce. Some people just bail out because caring for someone old and demented is a problem, and it’s very burdensome for the healthy partner. And people with these disease can take years to die. So you have this dilemma: what am I supposed to do? I’ve been married to this person for 20 or 30 years, and now they’re failing. I don’t have an answer for this. I think that polyamory is a way to deal with this problem of being there for a failing partner but still get your own needs met.
What about people who weren’t poly to begin with, like someone who at 50 just doesn’t want sex any more?
I can think of one example of a couple in Illinois, where he went off on his own and went to swing clubs as a single man and went to parties by himself. And his wife stayed home and felt sorry for herself. And after a year or two, she ultimately joined him, and they now have a very happy, adventuresome poly/swing lifestyle. And they go to swinger conventions all the time, and they’re in their 70s!
What about people who discover bisexuality in their 60s?
Many people don’t discover their homosexuality or bisexuality until they’re older, when all of those programmings we have when we are young tend to go away. And you say “gee, I’m really attracted to same sex!” Well, you need to sit down with your partner or partners and tell ‘em. And that’s one of the beauties of polyamory, that your partners would be supportive of your needs.
What if you were monogamous until you discover your bisexuality?
That’s what lawyers thrive on. Sometimes, great relationship fail. And they can fail even after 40 or 50 or 60 years. That’s one of the beauties of polyamory–there are lots of options open to you if you keep an open mind and are flexible.
To hear the entire interview with Ken Haslam about polyamory over the age of 70, as well as poly news coverage and happy poly moments, check out Poly Weekly episode 427: Poly Geezers.