SEXUALITY CAN BE AGELESS
Researchers in the study found that some sexual activity does decline with age, yet more than half of 75- to 85-
year-olds reported sexual activity at least two to three times a month, and 23 percent reported having sex at least
once a week.
The researchers also found that oral sex is even less "ageless," as approximately 60 percent of the participants
under 65 years old said they had engaged in oral sex in the previous 12 months. Over 30 percent of those over 75
engaged in oral sex during the previous year. Similar numbers reported self pleasuring.
Of course, overall levels of sexual activity continue to be directly related to general health, with those in poor health
less likely to be sexually active.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
You know by now that the purpose for this Seasoned Romance eColumn is helping Boomers and Beyond
understand that they can have romance filled lives, regardless of age. So we are happy to point out that study after
study, from the University of Chicago NSHAP to similar research findings in Sweden, Japan and around the world,
all continue to reveal that your body's most powerful sexual organ is your brain (and heart!), no matter how many
birthday candles on your most recent cake.
So, armed with this research and tons of precious letters and emails from you, our dear readers, we
once again offer ways for you to enjoy romance throughout all of your years. Though this list is gleaned
from leading sexual therapists and counselors, therefore hardly original, we offer these tips for
Today's society conveys many negative stereotypes about aging that may cause older individuals to wonder
whether they are considered worthy of sexual desire, whether they should still want to have sex, or whether they
are still capable of having sex. The research we have mentioned continues to break those myths! The truth is that
older adults are most often very, very sexually desirable, desirous, and capable. Internalizing these positive
attitudes and disregarding negative stereotypes about aging can go a long way in terms of providing for a healthy
sex life in older age.
Open and effective communication can go a long way in improving older adults sex lives. It is important to be open
and discuss sex-related issues with your partner. Without open communication, misunderstandings can occur that
may lead to negative consequences. If one older adult is reluctant to initiate sexual relations with his partner
because of arthritis pain, for example, without effective communication, his partner may take the lack of sexual
intimacy as a personal rejection. Communicating with your partner about what you want and what you do not want
in a clear and positive way is arguably the most important part of a healthy sexual relationship.
SET THE MOOD
Just like their younger counterparts, older adults can benefit sexually from
developing a relaxed and sexy mood prior to having sex; things like sharing a
romantic dinner, taking a shower or bath together, exchanging massages, or
listening to music together can help enhance sexual activity. Sexual relations
often lead naturally from activities like these. This natural flow from a broader
intimacy to sexual intimacy helps to combat any internalized attitudes about sex
in older adults being unnatural, which it is not.
BUILD UP TO IT
Because older adults generally take longer to become physiologically aroused than younger adults, there is even
more reason to focus on foreplay. This is no cause for alarm. In fact, researchers suggest that extended foreplay
and slower but longer intercourse is the best idea for sexually active older adults.
CONSIDER MAKING LOVE IN THE MORNING
For many Boomers and Beyond, especially past retirement, more time may mean more time for sexual activity. It is
often recommended that older adults should try making love in the morning. Being well-rested after a good night's
sleep can mean good sex, and older men are more likely to have a firm erection in the morning.
USE A LUBRICANT
Following menopause, women generally find that their vaginas are less flexible and less lubricated during sexual
arousal than they were prior to menopause. Less lubrication during vaginal intercourse can lead to a good deal of
unpleasantness or even downright pain. A water-based personal lubricant, such as Astroglide or Wet, can go a
long way in alleviating discomfort stemming from vaginal dryness. A lubricant can be applied to either partner, but
for the most lubrication, it can be applied to both.
TRY A NEW POSITION
Some older adults may find that sexual positions that they had used when they were younger are no longer
comfortable. This can be a good excuse to try new sexual positions. One effective way for many older adults to
have sex is "on the side". In this position, the man and woman both lie on their sides with the man "spooning" the
woman. It may take a little practice to get used to, but this position is effective because it allows vaginal intercourse
without putting major stress on any joints or necessitating one partner to put his or her weight on the other.
Increased genital stimulation can lead to an increase in sexual fulfillment for both men and women. As men age, it
often takes them a longer time to gain an erection and to ejaculate. Thus increased physical stimulation of the
penis during sexual activity may be needed. As women age, they may find that they have decreased clitoral
sensitivity. Also, they will probably find that their clitoris becomes less engorged with blood during sexual activity.
This lack of engorgement might lead the clitoris to be less stimulated during vaginal intercourse without manual
stimulation. Increased manual clitoral stimulation during sexual activity can help in the sexual fulfillment of older
EXPLORE AND DISCOVER
It is possible that changes in older age could make having vaginal intercourse less
probable or even impossible. By no means, however, does this have to be the end
of an older adult's sexuality. While our society may emphasize vaginal intercourse,
there is a vast array of fulfilling sexual acts beyond "insert penis into vagina."
Mutual masturbation, oral sex, shared fantasy, cuddling, and kissing can be healthy
and fulfilling forms of sexual expression with or without vaginal intercourse.
GET EXTRA ASSISTANCE
If older adults are having certain troubles sexually, sometimes extra assistance can lead these troubles to be
overcome. For instance, if one partner needs a lot of manual stimulation to become aroused, and the other partner
has arthritis in the hands or tires easily, perhaps a vibrator would be just the extra assistance needed. Often, the
necessary extra assistance comes in the form of psychological therapy. In older men, for example, impotence is
often caused not by the decrease in testosterone that comes with aging; rather it is likely caused by medications,
chronic illness, or psychological problems such as anxiety or depression. It is normal for an older man to have
problems getting an erection during sexual activity every once in a while. Sometimes, however, not getting an
erection one time can lead a man to have such anxiety about getting and maintaining an erection, that he will have
created a self-fulfilling prophecy. This may be an instance where outside psychological assistance could help
overcome a sexual problem.
Romance and physical intimacy doesn't have to fizzle out and disappear as you get older. When you have a
healthy lifestyle, all aspects of your life, certainly including a rewarding and regular sex life, can be something that
you enjoy all of your years!
As the country song says, "That's our story and we're sticking with it!" If it is a dream, there are lots of us Seasoned
Romantics out here that don't want to be awakened.
May you always have romance,
SENIOR SEX SURVEY
(And What You Can Do About It!)
Whatever else aging does, it definitely does not do away with a healthy sex drive!
According to results from recent surveys and studies (including the most comprehensive national
survey of sexuality among older adults in the United States by the University of Chicago's
National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, or NSHAP), studies of 50-85 year olds has
provided some surprises.
Bottom line: A large percentage of men and women continue to participate in sexual
intercourse and self pleasuring well into their 70s and 80s!