The myth is that aging kills sexuality. The truth is that while many senior citizens "retire" from lovemaking, many others don't--and increasingly these sexy seniors are saying so. One is Joan Price, now in her sixties, whose excellent new book, Naked At Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex (2011, Seal Press) relates how, at age 57, she fell madly in love with a man who was 64. They married and enjoyed hot, deeply fulfilling sex for many years until he passed away. The erotic heat of their marriage inspired Price to write her book, which deals with all facets of senior sex. It's comprehensive, compassionate and quite an eye-opener. Read it and you'll never again think that anyone is "too old" for great sex.
Of course, aging brings sexual changes (more on this in a moment). Compared with the frenzy of teen sex, older sex is also less exuberant, less like Fourth of July fireworks and more like a cozy Thanksgiving. But for many (most?) older folks, interest in sex remains strong. If you're playful and have an open mind, it's not difficult to adjust to the erotic changes aging brings and enjoy satisfying sex well into your nineties. In fact, as Joan Price relates, older sex can be an improvement over younger sex--bringing greater sensuality, deeper intimacy, and more erotic fulfillment.
How many older people have sex? In 2007, University of Chicago researchers surveyed the sex lives of a nationally representative sample, age 57 to 85. Respondents were asked if they'd had partner sex during the previous 12 months.
Men answering yes:
57 to 64: 84%
65 to 74: 67%
75 to 85: 39%
Women answering yes:
57 to 64: 62%
65 to 74: 40%
75 to 85: 17%
More than half of men are sexually active until age 75, women until 65. After that, the main reasons things change are medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) and partner loss. Partner loss is a particular problem for women because, on average, women live longer than men and spend more years as widows, and because the vast majority of women are in relationships with men who are older than they are. As the men develop late-life medical conditions that limit sex, the men's problems limit the women's sex lives.
Does aging reduce sexual satisfaction? No! A 2001 Newsweek survey asked a representative sample of 801 Americans aged 45 to 65: Did you enjoy sex more when you were younger? A majority--57 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women--said no, that sex at their age was just as enjoyable as it was when they were younger, or better. British researchers came to same conclusion in a survey of 4,000 older adults. Three-quarters of respondents under 45 said they felt sexually satisfied. For respondents over 65, the figure was identical, 75 percent. I agree. I'm 61 and enjoy sex with my wife as much as I did when we became lovers 40 years ago.
Of course, some sex problems increase with age. After menopause, women develop vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy, thinning of the vaginal wall. Both can make intercourse uncomfortable.
Older men develop arousal and erection problems. Arousal difficulties are disconcerting because many (most?) older men wistfully recall how they once become aroused instantly and effortlessly. In addition, some men develop erectile dysfunction (ED), inability to raise erections even during extended masturbation. But all older men's erections become less firm and less reliable.
Vaginal issues and erection difficulties make intercourse difficult or impossible for older lovers. Some people equate intercourse and sex, and decide that if intercourse becomes problematic, sex must be over. In fact, there's much more to sex than intercourse. Those who jettison intercourse and focus instead on genital hand massage, oral sex, and sex toys typically report very satisfying sex.
Some older men worry that if they can't raise erections, they can't have orgasms. No! Erection is not necessary for male orgasm. In an erotic setting, with enough hand massage and/or fellatio, a man with no erection at all can still enjoy satisfying orgasms.
Sure, sex changes with age. But whether you're enjoying the sexual fireworks of youth or the rich erotic mellowness of sex after 60, lovemaking can feel enjoyable and fulfilling at any age. And if you want to hear from dozens of sexually enthusiastic seniors, read Naked at Our Age, which includes their voices and pithy advice from sex therapists about making the most of all aspects of senior sex (joanprice.com).
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