“There’s strong data all over: It’s a matter of survival. People that have sex live longer. Married people live longer. People need people. The more intimate the connection, the more powerful the effects.” — Walter M. Bortz II, MD
At 85, Dr. Bortz is a professor at Stanford Medical School, a past president of the American Geriatrics Society and former co-chair of the American Medical Association’s Task Force on Aging.
Sex is good for us.
That’s a given. And it’s also a given that seniors are still interested in sex and having sex.
- On January 28, 2015, research from the UK conducted by The University of Manchester and NatCen Social Research published their findings from the study titled, Sexual health and wellbeing among older men and women in England. This first study in England to include people over 80, found that of the 7,000 people who responded to a questionnaire, more than half the men (54 percent) and nearly a third of the women (31 percent) who were over age 70 said they were still sexually active, with one-third of this group saying they had frequent sex—defined as at least twice a month.
- The most comprehensive sex survey ever done among 57 to 85-year-olds in our country, A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older Adults in the United States, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2007, had similar findings. Sex with a partner in the previous year was reported by 73 percent of people ages 57 to 64; 53 percent of those ages 64 to 75, and 26 percent of people 75 to 85. Of those who were active, most said they did it two to three times a month or more.
The two studies also identified similar sexual problems facing seniors:
- For men: erectile difficulties.
- For women: low desire/becoming sexually aroused, vaginal dryness, inability to climax. Women at all ages were less likely to be sexually active than men. But they also lacked partners; far more were widowed.
- For both men and women: poor health.
There has also been a downside to seniors’ sexual activity …
- “According to the Centers for Disease Control, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are spreading like wildfire among baby boomers. Since 2007, the incidence of syphilis among seniors has gone up by 52 percent, with chlamydia up 32 percent. It’s become enough of an issue that Medicare now offers free STD screenings for seniors. British studies have found a similar STD trend among older people as well.” (Huffington Post, Ann Brenoff, 1/28/2015)
So I repeat: sex is good for us and as seniors, we’re still interested in sex and having sex. And because of the alarming increase in STDs, we need to be having safe sex, or my definition of healthy sex: consensual and safe and with mutual trust!
While I found my solution to vaginal dryness with SBT Seabuckthorn Single Source Capsules and rev up my libido with cannabis sativa, these are not the only factors that can affect our sex lives. For example, our upbringing, cultural and religious beliefs, trauma, relationship issues, etc. For these and health concerns, you need to get advice and help from a sex therapist, psychologist, mental health counselor or health care professional. I’m none of those. What I can do is recommend some informative resources that I have found personally helpful and/or confirmed my experiences and knowledge.
Sex Ed for Seniors
1) For inspiration on the fabulousness of senior sex and guidance on dealing with the challenges, there’s Joan Price who calls herself: an advocate for ageless sexuality.
In 2006, Joan Price published her book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty. What was its impetus? At 57, after decades of single life, she fell deeply in love with artist Robert Rice, who was then 64. Their love affair was profound, joyful, and extremely spicy.
Joan’s husband died of cancer in 2008. His last request was that she would continue with her work. Three more books have followed her memoir: the self-help guidebooks, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex and The Ultimate Guide to Sex after Fifty: How to Maintain—or Regain—a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life; Ageless Erotica, is an anthology of erotic short stories and memoir essays that Joan edited.
On Joan’s blog, Naked at Our Age you’ll find reviews of sex toys, books and films.
What I find most refreshing about Joan Price is her unabashed enthusiasm for masturbation and vibrators, whether we’re married or single. And the latter is the prospect that most of us 65+ women face. (A report from the Administration on Aging published in 2011 found that older men were much more likely to be married than older women—72% of men vs. 42% of women. In 2010, 40% of older women were widows.)
2) For learning about our bodies with how-to instruction, let Dr. Emily Nagoski and Dr. Ian Kerner be your instructors.
Dr. Emily Nagoaki’s website is: thedirtynormal.com. Her book is: Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.
Dr. Ian Kerner’s website is: goodinbed.com. He’s written one book for women: Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man. And written one book for men: She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.
3) The advice that had the biggest impact on changing my attitude and behavior came from the book, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel, a couples and family therapist.
Esther Perel speaks on, The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship:
Upping my Erotic IQ
Esther Perel’s major premise is that in committed, long-term relationships, closeness and security and dependence smother desire. The result: marital boredom and sexless marriages. Is it possible to reconcile our human need for safety and predictability with passion? Esther’s answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
I’ll close by sharing some of the advice that has upped my erotic IQ. I encourage you to buy a copy of her book, read it, and discover what resonates with you.
Here’s some of what I’m applying with the wholehearted support of my loving husband:
- There’s intentionality in our sex life. We plan. Set aside a specific time. We anticipate.
- We have different avid interests. Seeing each other in the pursuit of these interests, exuding self-confidence, refuels our attraction.
- We appreciate how integral sexual fantasies are to our making love. Sometimes I share these. Sometimes I don’t. Esther waxes poetic on sexual fantasy: “Our erotic imagination is an exuberant expression of our aliveness, and one of the most powerful tools we have for keeping desire alive.”
- Playfulness and laughter intertwine with passion.
Here’s Ester Perel’s advice that’s still a work-in-progress for me:
“Erotic intimacy is an act of generosity and self-centeredness, of giving and taking.”
My husband has always been a generous lover. My transformation has made me very, very selfish. But I’m learning!
“Erotic intimacy holds the double promise of finding oneself and losing oneself. It is an experience of merging and of total self-absorption, of mutuality and selfishness. To be inside another and inside ourselves at the same time is a double stance that borders on the mystical.” — Esther Perel