Tips for Exploring Your Sexuality at Midlife and Beyond
Being open about your intimacy and becoming a sex pioneer
When it comes to aging and sex, aware of it or not, like it or not, we have become our own pioneers.
While some of us look into the mirror and see a facsimile of our parents or grandparents, others look quite different from those generations before us. Maybe because of ever increasing cosmetic procedures, or possibly because we’re eating well and exercising, we appear younger than previous generations did at our age.
However we look, it is indisputable that we over 50 are living longer, healthier and more active lives than any generation before us. A man reaching 65 today can expect to live to age 84, and woman to almost 87. Most babies born in 1900 didn’t live past 50. Not only that, a majority of us are sexually active either alone or with a partner.
While we had some role models from previous generations showing us how to stay active and live with vitality, sex was a taboo. Too few have paved the way for open talk about sex at midlife and beyond, much less provided detail about how to continue to enjoy an active sexual life. So once again, as we were in our youth, we are pioneers in exploring our own sexuality.
We also have the chance, perhaps even the responsibility, to become examples and mentors for those generations following on our heels. We have grown into becoming the role models we once sought.
No Age Limit to Sex
In our youth oriented culture, few want to acknowledge that our parents and grandparents are still doing “It”. We, too, often have trouble verbalizing our own intimacy longings and sexual actions.
"There is no age limit on sexuality and sexual activity," reports Stephanie A. Sanders, Ph.D., associate director of the sexual research group The Kinsey Institute.
“While the frequency or ability to perform sexually will generally decline modestly as seniors experience the normal physiological changes that accompany aging, reports show that the majority of men and women between the ages of 50 and 80 are still enthusiastic about sex and intimacy.”
When I researched my last book, Sex for Grown-Ups: Dr.Dorree Reveals the Truths, Lies and Must-Tries for Great Sex After 50, I read hundreds of studies and confirmed that the old adage of “use it or lose it” is true.
Being Sexually Active Is Healthy
There's additional confirming data that people who have positive sex lives are healthier, recover from surgery faster and simply live longer. Perhaps more than youth, we elder generation groundbreakers remain people who need positive connection, intimacy and, yes, even sex.
Recently a 91-year-young man, slower than he once was but still vibrant, came to my office with the complaint that “his well was empty” and that he feared he wasn’t pleasing his 75-year-old partner as well as not feeling pleased himself.
After talking awhile, I suggested he and his partner try more direct communication and a visit to a local high-end sexual education shop that I respect as not being a porn establishment. Then I said: “And please remember sex is more than penetration.” He left smiling, promising to do his assignment and report back, preferably with his partner, to tell me their results. I await his or their report with enthusiasm and good wishes for their never-ending journey.
Tips for Pioneering the Way
So now that we are our own thought, health and sex pioneers, what do we do about it?
Here are some suggestions:
- Stop seeking a leader. Become one. You know your own sexuality issues better than anyone. Don’t let youth’s raised eyebrows and giggles stop your telling them that you are still sexual with needs and feelings that are not so different from their own. In spite of their almost predictable “yuk” response, they will remember your words as they too age.
- Stop being shy. Shout your knowledge out loud. Sit down and talk to those who count, family friends and even assisted living staff. Use articles such as this one, search book stores under health, sex or aging or use popular (not pornographic) online book sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and of course AARP for books about sex and aging. Explain that sex simply does not have a termination date.
- Create a comfortable comfort zone where you can be curious and find the fun in talking about sex. I’ll let you in on an experience of my own. Many years ago, I invited some of my women friends to form a group where they could be guaranteed privacy and, if desired, anonymity. I had them write out ideas and questions about sex that they wanted to share. Originally, only one person signed up. I renamed the group “The Divine Divas,” added some wine and cheese and we couldn’t keep people away. (I did provide a sheet of suggested questions, which ultimately no one used — after a little wine, they all spoke up.) The group, much like a book club, continued for years. Sometimes it takes trial and error. Sometimes, it’s all in the “spin”.
- Become a mentor to younger generations. In casual conversation or in a group discussion gathering that you might organize weekly or monthly, share what you’ve learned about everyday issues such as dating, keeping a long term relationship alive, and communication — and add in how the need for intimacy and sex continues even in age as one point or agenda item.
- You might invite one of the willing and often free sex educators from your local university to such a group meeting, or see if they need speakers for a class they are teaching. Again, you are the educators, but you don’t have to do all the work.
- Vow to never stop learning: If you aren’t sure about some aspect of your own sexuality, read an appropriate book, watch a sex education film, find and ask questions of a knowledgeable expert such as a therapist, physician, and health or sex educator.
- If you don’t know where to start, read Next Avenue, explore educational sites on the Internet. They are not all pornographic. And, you can always ask me at drdorree.com or directly at [email protected].
You are your own pioneer. Enjoy your groundbreaking adventure.