Tuesday 30 November 2010

Sex: Over 50, over the hill?

I'm not as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was.

Is over 50 over the hill? Or 60 or 70 for that matter? For the younger crowd, I can just imagine them going, "Eew!" After all, who thinks of grandpa and grandma "doing it"?

However we are all living longer. Life expectancy is going up and with that comes the idea that those golden years are becoming more numerous and quality of life is certainly an issue. Of course, as part of that quality, let's not forget one of those most fundamental parts of our lives: sex. If it was good at twenty, why can't it be good at 60?

Wikipedia: Masters and Johnson: Sexual response in the aging person
Masters and Johnson were the first to conduct research on the sexual responsiveness of older adults, finding that given a state of reasonably good health and the availability of an interested and interesting partner, there was no absolute age at which sexual abilities disappeared. While they noted that there were specific changes to the patterns of male and female sexual responses with aging – for example, it takes older men longer to become aroused and they typically require more direct genital stimulation, and the speed and amount of vaginal lubrication tends to diminish with age as well – they noted that many older men and women are perfectly capable of excitement and orgasm well into their seventies and beyond, a finding that has been confirmed in population based epidemiological research on sexual function in the elderly.

The Washington Post: Desire in the Twilight of Life - - Nov 13/2010
Despite the stereotypes and bad jokes, intimacy is alive and well in our aging population. And it's time to get comfortable with it.
By Mark Lachs, Director of geriatrics for the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System and a professor of clinical medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College.
A growing body of research on aging suggests that many older Americans have satisfying sexual relationships well into their later years. The largest systematic study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, involved just over 3,000 subjects. It found that, although sexual activity does decline with age, about half of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 remain active, as do 26% of those between 75 and 85. Among those in this second group, 54% said that they had sex at least two or three times a month, and 23% reported relations with a partner at least once a week.
There are many erroneous stereotypes about getting older. As we age, we tend to get treated like a number rather than like individuals with a wide range of preferences and abilities. Among the worst of these tendencies is the assumption that after the age of, say, 60, we should simply forget about physical intimacy.

With luck (and with the help of our ever more sophisticated medical technologies), those of us now in the middle years of life will be the "dirty" old men and ladies of tomorrow. In the meantime, we must struggle to overcome the habits and taboos that now interfere with the happiness of so many older people. There is nothing "dirty" about the sexual feelings that attend our lives from adolescence on. The great irony of ageism—and what sets it apart from other forms of prejudice—is that you eventually become the target of your own bigotry. We must begin to approach aging with the honesty and wonder that it deserves.

According to the above, we can physically "do it", maybe not as frequently as when we were twenty but we are definitely still capable.

Okay, we may be "able" but are we "willing"? Does getting older affect our desire or should I say our will to participate? Do the physical limitations or the slow downs of the aging body affect in turn our willingness?

AARP: How Sex Changes for Men After 50
It's not the same as it used to be — and that can be a good thing.
by: Michael Castleman - October 12, 2010
AARP: Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons:
1. Some things change. Take, for example, erections. After 40 and certainly by 50, they rise more slowly, and become less firm and frequent. Sexual fantasies are no longer enough. Men need fondling, often for quite a while. It's disconcerting to lose firmness and suffer wilting from minor distractions, such as a phone ringing, but these changes are perfectly normal. Unfortunately, many men mistake them for erectile dysfunction (ED) and become distraught — only exacerbating the problem. Anxiety constricts the arteries that carry blood into the penis, making erections even less likely.

3. The main attraction may change. When you think of sex, you of course think of intercourse. But after the reproductive years, this main attraction on the sexual menu may become problematic. For older men, iffy erections and ED become increasingly prevalent. Meanwhile, older women, develop vaginal dryness and atrophy (thinning and inflammation of the vaginal lining), which can make intercourse uncomfortable or impossible, even with lubricant.

Some older couples abandon intercourse in favor of what Dr. Haslam calls "outercourse:" whole-body massage, oral sex and playing with sex toys. "With creative outercourse, you can enjoy very erotic, orgasmic sex without intercourse."

Sex After 50: 10 Answers for Better Sex from Dr. Laura Berman
by: Dr. Laura Berman | from: AARP | August 2008
5. Among people who have healthy sexual relationships as they get older, what's working for them that isn't working for others with problems?
One, they probably have open communication with their partner in which they can talk about what's working and what’s not working. Sharing feedback is important. They also probably work hard to keep their sex life exciting, by taking romantic trips, wearing sexy lingerie, trying out erotica. Just stating they're committed to a healthy sex life is the first and most important step! Diet and exercise also play an important part, as a healthy body fosters a healthy sex life, and an unhealthy body fosters an unhealthy one.

Final Word
Physically, sex is possible but it will more than likely be different. That takes care of the "able". As for the "willing", the experts come back to one principal theme: communication. Being able to talk with one's partner seems to be the key to success.

[chuckles] It seems so easy and yet... it seems so hard. Can I be completely open? Can I tell my partner a fantasy? Can I tell my partner to caress me here or there and in a certain way? Can I tell my partner that if she wore lingerie I would find it exciting?

I'm just as guilty as everybody else when it comes to being open and honest. What reaction am I going to get if I reveal a personal part of me? Will it be, "tell me more" or "let's discuss" or will it be a freak out with "Eew, that's disgusting"? Yes, I'm hesitant. Yes, I'm uncomfortable. Yes, I'm apprehensive, no, sometimes I'm actually scared. I have a lifetime of experiences both direct (my own experiences) and indirect (those around me, in the newspapers, on television) which have reinforced the idea that silence is golden; do not talk about certain things under penalty of ridicule, being ostracised or even criminal prosecution. Do we need a frank discussion? You bet! However, I'm apprehensive; you're apprehensive; we're all apprehensive if not scared and that is a big hurdle to get over.

Sex over 50: Whew, I'm not over the hill. Nevertheless, there are a few challenges to making this work. All I have to do is overcome of lifetime of not necessarily being the best communicator.


Michael Castleman: GreatSexAfter40.Com
With a few adjustments, sex after 40, 50 or 60 can be the best sex of your life

Dr. Laura Berman
Quite a comprehensive web site: a weekly program, books, advice, etc.


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