“No one has sex over 35! Everyone knows that!” An elderly gentleman told me recently. I blinked and looked to see if he was joking but he wasn’t! No one else in the room laughed, it was accepted point-blank. Sex was only for the young apparently!
Hang on! Sexual satisfaction is essential for physical and mental health of any adult age. Intimacy is a natural human need and strengthens relationships. Expressing our sexuality is a basic human right.
Let’s clear up this ageist myth. 75 per cent of adults aged 58 to 85 said that satisfactory sex is essential to maintaining a relationship in a recent study. Over half the men and women had been sexually active more than once a month.
STI’s and HIV is rising amongst the over 60s population every year. Safe sex health campaigns mistakenly only target young people. This is where public health fails our baby boomers. Staff at nursing homes often aren’t trained to deal with sexually active residents.
Our society has ingrained this myth of the asexual older person to such an extent that over half of actively sexual elderly people didn’t think it was “proper” for them to be sexually active in a Finnish study. Information on elderly sexuality in sex education in schools could destroy this taboo surrounding sex and old age.
If we care about the welfare of our ageing population then we must boldly put their sexual health on the table. Australia is facing complex challenges with an ageing population and I’ve read countless general health studies where sexual health consistently gets excluded. Some Australian studies of our sexually active population cut the age range for participants off at 50!
By omitting this important aspect of physical and emotional health, we’re saying the sexuality of ageing adults isn’t important! However a good sex life can add years to our life.
Sometimes couples can get embarrassed and sex can stop. This doesn’t have to be permanent. Don’t be scared to come see a sex therapist such as myself for help if you’re struggling. Professional help can reignite your sex life. Sex at 70 might not be the same as when you were 20, but this chapter of your life can usher in new and heightened explorations of your sensual side.
Many older people have more exciting sex lives than when they were younger. They have more time, less interruptions from kids or work, more privacy and self-confidence. Their partnership may have deepened or they might be relishing online dating.
Try accepting the normal changes that happen to your body as you age. Let go of expectations about sex and stop comparing yourself to your younger self. Communicate your fears with your partner. Be honest, open and playful. Expand your definition of sex as more than just intercourse. Sex can be whatever you want it to be. Touching, kissing, sensual massage, mutual masturbation. Remember not all intimacy has to lead to intercourse.
Life can be sensual into your 80s.
This blog first appeared as my April column in Ciao magazine.
Top photography by Jean Malek..