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The Best Years of Your Sex Life

Aging need not be a sexual deterrent; it can be an enrichment.

Key points

  • At midlife, we have increased capability of communicating our sexual needs without fear of "looking silly.”
  • Older men seek the warmth and closeness in sex that some women have waited decades for them to discover.
  • Many of the sexual problems couples experienced in their youth are naturally resolved at midlife.

Sex does change as we age, and that is the good news. Performance anxieties and many common sex problems occur far more frequently in the young than in those who are old enough to know better. Men and women are still vital, alive, and sexy at 40, 50, 60, and beyond, and they’re sexually confident and experienced, too. As long as we don’t lose our zest for life, we don’t lose our lust for lovemaking either.

Aging Can Be Sexy

Couples at 50 are on the threshold of a richer, fuller, and more mature sex life than they have enjoyed in the past. Midlife sex can be emotionally satisfying and thrilling physically. While physiological changes dictate that we make certain adaptations to our lovemaking styles, we are also the beneficiaries of some potent sexual benefits at midlife. They include the following:

  • Greater sophistication about our own and our partner’s sexuality.
  • Increased capability of communicating our sexual and emotional needs without fear of “looking silly” or being rejected or misunderstood by the one we love.
  • Improved sexual responsiveness in women and a corresponding improved ability to control ejaculation in men.
  • Greater willingness to experiment with sexual variations.
  • Lessened inhibitions and increased ability to “have fun” with lovemaking.
  • Far greater technical proficiency as lovers.

Some Sexual Issues Age Well

Many of the sexual problems couples experienced in their youth are naturally resolved at midlife. Premature ejaculation, for example, is a young man’s problem with some ejaculating in as little as 30 seconds after insertion. By the age of 50, most men’s ejaculatory responses have slowed down considerably, to at least the average time of two to five minutes of thrusting and sometimes much longer. Simple remedies can resolve minor problems naturally occurring at midlife such as vaginal dryness in women.

Age May Deepen the Appreciation of Lovemaking

As we age, we evolve sexually; and the sexual maturation process makes lovemaking a far more enjoyable overall experience at 50 than it was at 20. Typically, men and women cross sexual and psychological paths at midlife in a process psychoanalyst Carl Jung described as the “contrasexual transition.” Women become more independent and assertive, and less in need of reassurance or approval from their partners. Men become more nurturing, more comfortable with intimacy, and able to share themselves in ways they never could before. Older men seek the warmth and closeness in sex that some women have waited decades for them to discover. Each partner becomes more like the other in patterns of sexual response.

We know more about ourselves and our intimate partners at this point in our lives than we did when we were young. At 50, we can be bold and tender lovers, unafraid of our passion and our lover’s desires. We are more likely to be empathetic, able to feel and understand our partner’s feelings, sexual and otherwise. Couples who relegate sex to the storage closet of their life together because they are no longer young are giving up just when the real prize is within their grasp.

Opportunity Is Yours for the Taking

Why do some couples make the transition to a higher sexual level while others use aging as an excuse for shutting down?

  • Some people subscribe to a series of myths about sex over 40 that lead them to believe passion is the exclusive province of the young.
  • Others fail to recognize that physiological changes present opportunities for better sex, not obstacles to it.
  • Some fail to adapt their lovemaking styles to accommodate their changing needs and particularly their improved abilities as lovers.
  • Many allow boredom, stress, or dissatisfaction with other areas of life—jobs, finances, child rearing, extended families, physical signs of aging—to stifle their sexuality.

In 2000, the Mature Market Institute of Met Life reported that baby boomers, more than 76 million of them, represent more than a quarter of the U.S. population. The boomers, more than the generation preceding them, with an estimated spending power of more than a trillion dollars, will not go quietly into the sexual darkness. They don’t and won’t consider themselves finished with sex because media images of sexuality are predominantly youthful ones.

The Word Is Getting Around

In fact, some of the advertisers are beginning to get the message that older isn’t neutered. Vanity Fair, the lingerie company, reassessed their ad campaigns when market researchers discovered many of the women who purchased their products were 40, 50, and older, considerably older than the teen models hired to display the wares. Now there are Vanity Fair models in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, and, though exceptionally beautiful, they display fine lines and graying hair.

Advertisers have increasingly devoted more energy to romancing the older consumer. That flattering attention will, in small increments, increase the collective sexual self-esteem of those of us who are no longer young. Whether you are pushing 50 or on the far side of it, you’ll benefit from power in the marketplace. New trends in health care promise to keep lovers feeling and looking as fit as possible, too. There has never been a better time for the mature lover.

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