On Monday we talked about language, certain words that are offensive to some people, so why not move right along to talking about sex today, elder sex, and see how it goes.
When I began this blog in 2004, the words “old people” and “sex” almost never appeared in the same sentence in general-interest publications, especially when young adults were doing the writing. It was just too “eeew” for them to think about mom and dad or their grandparents doing the nasty.
In the years since then, this has changed. Google it and you'll get more than 30 million returns ranging from scientific studies to videos of actual sex acts with old people.
Before we go any further and so you know where I'm coming from, let me confess that the latter of those extremes is problematic for me. I get ootchy – always have at every age - viewing even the most artistic presentations of sex in movies whether the actors have gorgeous young bodies or wrinkly old ones.
However, do not let that lead you to believe that I find sex distasteful in any way. We'll leave my history out of this beyond saying that it has been joyful and abundant. Sex is a wonderful thing. I just think it's better in private – at least for me.
As that Google search indicates, there is little reticence in any media these days about elder sex. Everybody seems to be talking about it and the idea that old people don't get it on after some certain, unspecified age has been fading. As Huffington Post reported in January,
”...The New England Journal of Medicine...surveyed 3,005 men and women, between the ages of 57 and 85 and living in the US, about their sex lives. It found that the majority of older adults who were married or had intimate partners remained sexually active well into their 80s.
“In general, sexual activity tended to decline with age, but a significant number of men and women reported engaging in intercourse, oral sex and masturbation even in their eighth and ninth decades.”
That's one of the better surveys that didn't cut off the age range at about 70 as so many others do. Another study, reported in the Daily Beast a couple of years ago, revealed similar results:
”...sex among the senior set is important, with 46 percent of men and 33 percent of women over 70 reporting that they masturbate, and 43 percent of men and 22 of women in the same age bracket saying they engage in sexual intercourse.”
I'm not so sure these studies are not undertaken so much for general knowledge as to reassure young people that sex won't stop when they get old – or doesn't need to, anyway. What isn't often discussed, however, is that the urge diminishes over time.
For 10 or 15 years, in my case, it has felt like my hormone level must have dropped by about 90 percent. Even so, I continue to believe that if the opportunity presented itself, I would be as eager as at any previous time in life.
Not that anyone has lately given me a reason to test that theory which, according to one report (HuffPo again), may limit my libido:
"Janet Gibbens, MD, a gynecologist at Providence Health Systems in Portland, OR, says: 'Use it or lose it’ has to do with the fact that regular sexual acts bring more blood flow, and therefore more oxygen, to the vagina and to the penis.
"It promotes healthier sexual organs and improves lubrication and elasticity, particularly for women. Non-intercourse forms of sex are helpful with this as well.”
As wonderful as sex is, what I miss these days of living alone is what a friend calls "skin hunger" – the deep human desire to be touched, not necessarily sexually. In answer to that need, my birthday present to myself this year was an hour-long, full-body massage which I now schedule once a month.
It is affordable for me because the local senior center provides a masseuse at a much reduced price compared to commercial services. A highly recommend it if you aren't already way ahead of me.
Another issue with old people and sex is that it may become physically difficult depending on health conditions. The internet's long-time guru of sex in old age, Joan Price, had some nice suggestions about that at Senior Planet last year:
“Explore each other’s entire bodies,” she writes. “Our skin is our largest sex organ. Invite your partner to touch your body all over—no goals, just pleasure. On a different day, switch to exploring your partner.
“Whether you’ve known each other for a long time or just a little while, this is the body you live in now, and there’s plenty to discover about how it looks and responds.”
Just about any article you read about old people and sex includes a reminder sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been on the rise among elders in particular for a few years, and practicing safe sex is essential.
That makes it good to know that since 2012, Medicare Part B has allowed for free annual screenings for senior citizens for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and/or hepatitis B.
It's been awhile since I checked around the web for what it is saying about old people and sex and it has changed mostly for the better. There is little reticence about it now even when the language is sometimes ageist or too cutesy.
What shows nowadays is that old sex is a lot like young sex if you don't count frequency or athleticism, as U.S. News reported last year:
”One of the biggest misconceptions about older adults is that they lack passion, Foley says. 'Some people have had this extraordinary long-term partnership where they remain very passionate,' she says.
“'And other people who are widowed or divorced, when they fall in love and they’re in their 70s or their 80s, they feel the same way as people who fall in love in their 20s. They’re gaga for the person. And their sex is great.'”
As I've always said (and forgotten who I'm quoting), sex is the friendliest thing two people can do.