Crabby Old Lady: A Tale of Two Blogs About Aging

A Few Words About Elder Sex

Hi there, everyone. I missed you and I'm glad to be back after a week's breather. Shortly before the beginning of my hiatus, I mentioned that I had intended to talk about sex that day but something that seemed more important intervened.

In the comments, Tarzana and Ali both asked, “So when are we going to talk about sex?” and a couple of readers even emailed last week to remind me. Okay, today we talk about sex.

There is so much to say, we might need several of these chats. But let's start here:

There's a media taboo about this subject – elders and sex – and even though demographic changes are beginning to produce a slowly growing body of film, television and books with elder lead characters, they are not having much sex. Too icky, I think, for people not yet old who produce these works.

There are a few websites devoted to elder sex. They usually are selling books and the copy is too often more graphic than I am either comfortable with or need.

Six or seven years ago, Gail Sheehy, who gained fame in the mid-seventies with her book Passages, published Sex and the Seasoned Woman announcing that the new generation of old women is committed to a passionate second half of life that includes lots of sex.

Hurray for them, but as I mentioned at the time, I doubt that the women who, in their youth, marched for civil rights, women's rights, against the Vietnam War, burned their bras, adopted “the pill” as their own when it was new and went on to win previously unheard-of consideration and rights in the workplace need either permission for or instruction about sex in old age.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in having a lot of practice. For most of my adult life sex was near or at the top of my list of compelling interests, so much so that I now wonder how I managed to get anything else done.

Although I didn't married again after my divorce at age 30, there were a couple of long-term relationships, plenty of short-term liaisons and some friends with privileges along with two or three romances so beautiful they can still break my heart when they come to mind.

Every one of those involved lots of sex. Lots of good sex and that is usually what I find wanting in discussions I've seen of elders and sex - that the goal is, as when we were young, quantity. I find that to be - well, juvenile thinking.

Sex was a big part of my life so I was saddened when, 12 or 15 years ago, I realized that I had stopped thinking about it every day. Over a period of time, the urge for an activity that had reliably and regularly given such enormous pleasure drifted away and I mourned that loss and with it the sense I had of myself as a hot, sexy chick.

As it does, time helped me come to terms with my new, older, less sexual self and I came to see that I had never understood how completely hormones controlled my behavior for so long until they didn’t anymore. It has been a welcome relief to be free of that.

Which is not to say sex has completely died for me. These days it naps, hardly noticeable for extended periods of time until there is an object of desire. What's nice about that is there is (or would be should someone of that description turn up) so much less carnal urgency than when I was young. There is time now to know one another first than was always true in the past.

There is an abundance of terrible jokes about performance in old age – or lack thereof. Generally, I don't like them because they are of a piece with late-night comedians' diaper jokes that rob elders of their dignity.

For ourselves, however, certainly at our ages we are grown up enough to take sometimes waning capability into consideration (with or without little blue pills). There are all kinds of nice, feel-good things two naked people can do together that are fun and express their feelings for one another.

I think that's something the television commercials for Cialis leave out – that the central act is not always what's paramount in old-age sex. Coziness and warmth and affection and love too, when it is there, count for a lot – more even than when we were young and horny all the time.

That is a decent-sized hole in my aged single life. There is no one to touch or who regularly touches me. Sexual or friendly - both, actually – touching is a powerful kind of human connection that single old people hardly ever have, or have enough of, and I don't know an answer for that.

Returning to the media for a moment, on the rare occasion elder sexuality is discussed in books, magazines and online (intelligently or stupidly), it is almost exclusively aimed at women.

Can it be that because men have Viagra and Cialis, no one believes there is anything more to say to them? Can that be so?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Turning 75 on the Ides of March


When the thought of elder sex comes up, the younger ones are so repulsed as to declare that it shouldn't happen. I am the first to stand on my chair and call bullshit! At what age are we supposed to be denied love? Okay, so the desire to have sex has diminished, but it hasn't gone away. If we are still well enough and have somebody to have sex with, yipee! I can't imagine that an orgasm is anything other than good for us.

Regarding sex, for the elderly or otherwise, I highly recommend the film which I recently viewed--"Hysteria". I showed it at a party we recently held and everyone loved it. It is funny and educational both!

Welcome back Ronni, As you said there are ways to have sex besides the central act. Plumbing issues in elders both female and male are somewhat a problem but there are many ways to express caring and feel good.

You wrote: "There is no one to touch or who regularly touches me. Sexual or friendly - both, actually – touching is a powerful kind of human connection that single old people hardly ever have, or have enough of, and I don't know an answer for that."

THAT is what I miss since my husband died 7 years ago. I have family, and we share hugs..but it's not the deep kind of touching. I had a therapeutic massage when my back issues caused my orthopedic doc to order it. What I enjoyed most was just the touching...it relaxed me. The therapist was excellent, and said she knew I missed touch. At any rate, if I could find the kind of man who understood that...it would be wonderful. What I find with men past 60 is that they are all professing sexual prowess; when does THAT stop? Oh well.

What is that saying, "the sexiest organ is the brain"? Still applies I think...

Yes, it is true that most people don't want to visualize old people having sex. However, try this: look at the next 20 couples of any age that you run into during a normal day. Ewwww, you don't want to visualize them having sex either, do you? The fact is, the only people anybody wants to visualize having sex are the movie-star beautiful couples. The thought of anyone ordinary doing the deed just seems repulsive or ridiculous. So, it's not just old people.

It's all funny, when you think of it.

Welcome back Ronni.

Here's a link to Jane Juska's book published in 1999, when after 30 years of celibacy, at the age of 67 she puts an ad in the NY Times Literary Review about meeting men for some good sex. http://www.aroundheeledwoman.com/about/about-the-book.html The books is now a stage play with Sharon Gless.

Click on the tab "Jane Juska" - very interesting woman and still writing about sex and older people.

I'm all for it....for those who want it but as you say, Ronni, the hormones do funny things: a nice cuddle and a sharing of interests does it for me now.

I always wondered...Louis CK says he loves older women so much but who would want to have sex with him? Ew!

For those of us who live alone, decreased desire is undoubtedly a blessing. Still, if the right man came into my life ... whee!

I recently had a hot stone massage- gentle, warming, fabulous- and vowed to have one regularly if my husband dies before me. It was so relaxing and lovely. As for sex after 65, it has changed to a time for intimate talk (including new fantasies that emerge), touching, kissing and cuddling that sometimes leads to more but the more isn't foremost. We set date nights as well where we dress up and go out or stay home but focus on each other. Waning hormones have lessened the desire for sex as often but not the pleasure from it.

Old Women know more about The Big O than kids or men ever find out. I have dreams of visitations to remember when I wake up in the morning, that make me smile for being Celibate because I don't have to waste the high, demurely.
cackle cackle!!!

Like Cara, I think the tactile stimulation that human touch gives us is so rewarding, especially as we age. Alone it is a comfort but in the process, if it arouses sexual desire, then so much the better.

What a great and thought-provoking post and comments!!!!

I wish someone would just stop by every day and give me a hug. A hug chases away bad feelings and elicits smiles. After the past week, I really need them.

This post was worth the wait, and the comments are truly heart-felt.

One thought I had: Since many younger people think it's so disgusting for old people to have sex, I'd like to ask them when they themselves plan to stop having sex.

I've been so fortunate in meeting a man at work some years ago. (He's the one I call The Engineer.)

We share many interests, we cuddle, we have date nights, and we have sex. Life is good!

One of your best, Ronni. Closeness is so integral to my life with a partner that I often take it for granted. Then reminded by 80-something, single neighbor who reminds me--and partner--how much pleasure she gets from strong, tight hugs.

I need to do it more often. Think we'd feel better about ourselves if we talked about sex as you & commenters do here--give ourselves permission: "I want a hug NOW!"

Choosing to be celibate is one thing - I was a catholic nun for 17 years, then left in my mid-30's and eventually married - but a sudden divorce at 62 years of age resulted in a celibacy I hadn't chosen.

I remember going on a vacation with my teenage kids in Whistler BC and suddenly noticing how so many people were partnered. At that point, I thought I would be single forever and felt sad.

I am now remarried and can say without question that what I would miss the most were Dave to die before me would be touching. Not just the physical touching, caresses, kisses, sex, etc. but the daily connecting with each other when we wake, leave, make a quick phone call just to "touch base", come home, walk into a restaurant,look at each other, board a plane, etc. All the simple things that say "You are my partner and I care about you."

Children, friends and extended family also "touch" in a healing, life-giving way, but not quite the same as a sexual partner/spouse.

I wish it were possible to send REAL hugs over the internet! {} to Kay, and to Ronnie for being so real and honest in writing about topics that don't get talked about enough. Thank you.

A 2nd divorce at 68 pretty much ended my contact with the opposite sex. It was messy and left me wondering about my judgement. I do miss the closeness conversations, sex, cuddling, all kinds (and was missing it the last three years of the marriage) but find myself backing away from any opportunities because it seems like too much work or too risky. I do have a huge family I see a lot of, lots of little kid hugs, and conversations of all kinds with relatives and friends. But, yes, I miss having a partner.

A few years ago I met a woman at a square dancing class who told me that she enjoyed the dancing and, additionally, it was now her only chance to be held and touched.

For most of my adult life, I've often stated … If God made something better than sex when he made mankind … He must have kept it for Himself, either that or I've been sheltered from exposure to it. That goes along with another old saying … One cannot miss what one has not experienced.

What courage all the commenters here have and I include myself in sharing that opinion. I may be wrong but so far only females have contributed to this topic. I do so reluctantly because I know myself so well.

On April third, my wife and I will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. We still LOVE one another in all the ways it can be demonstrated but there has been no sex for a long time. It's almost impossible for me to convey to another person exactly how much I miss it in our relationship. I almost lost her over two years ago. Thank God, she is still with us. Heart failure came with her genetic heritage. Every relative she has lost was due to some form of heart condition. I cannot bear thinking about what life would be like now without her. Even if I could perform sexually, I'm not sure I would risk it out of fear that such exertion might kill one or both of us. I remember what I felt like afterward. It was everything all the great writers say it should be and at times, I believe I could have just faded away into the ether as we lay there side by side after expressing our love so vigorously.

I'm doing my best to refrain from going into something humorous right now. Actually, it's a very serious topic and one we know so little about because so few are willing to do what some here have done. TALK ABOUT IT!

You did an expert job of it yourself Ronni. If only all of us could express ourselves as eloquently as you and not cross over some forbidden line.

I am 72 years old. No one put me out to pasture. I did it myself.
I swung the gate open and walked through, knowing full well what I was about. No one is to blame but I. I brought it all upon myself and I hate to think that I have deprived the woman I love more than my own life the pleasures of sex. I say all that even though I'm not positive that our life together would have been any different now had I not done all those things in my past that have combined to keep me from being the lover I wish I could be now. Sex IS a brain thing. Whomever said that in their comment was right. But the brain is not the only thing involved. I still have the desire. I still lust for the experience again but the fear of failure will always keep my desire and lust at bay.

I constantly worry about what some tell me is the inevitable. That is … one day I could lose all those precious sexual memories. I love to sit alone and remember. It has a pleasure all its own. That is the one time I'm more worried than other times, fearing the loss of memory. What a terrible shame it would be.

My wife is twelve years younger than myself. I wonder to myself … does she ever have such bouts of recall concerning the sex we have enjoyed together? If she does, is it a pleasure for her also? If that's the case, why is it that she has never told me about it. I can't count the number of times I have asked her a question about something, anything … and she comes back with … I haven't really thought about it. So, perhaps you can understand why I would be hesitant to ask her that question I wondered about earlier in this very paragraph. I'm afraid that she will have a similar retort. You see, I know that even at her more youthful age, she too is experiencing common bouts of forgetfulness, but it most likely short-term memory loss; at least, I hope that is the case.

Whenever I can bring myself to study my physical appearance in a mirror, I am truly disgusted by what I see. That image is not one that represents my mental age. In my mind, I am still that desirable man she once yearned to caress and hold tightly to her own bare flesh in a lustful embrace. I am still capable and skilled at giving her pleasure. Those kind of thoughts vanish quickly when I allow myself to see the real ME.

She no longer snuggles back in my direction when I come to our bed and lay down close to her, reaching out an arm to draw her close. I can't blame her for that reaction. She is only being REAL. YES! We still touch one another in our own special way. We are still capable of conveying passion with our hands and hugs, but they are rarely shared between us. I don't know why that should be … it simply is so. Why; we even hold hands now and then as we walk along side by side. It doesn't feel strange, not to me. It is however, strange whenever I do think about the way we once were. If that makes any sense whatsoever. And yet, it seems that not too long ago, our 39 year old daughter noticed us embracing at what must have seemed to her as an usual time and her joking reaction was … Hey! Get a room you two. I wonder if she knows how much those words mean to us?

Hi Ronnie,
You are brave to take on such a difficult topic and get such a great response keep it up.


I am 51, I am certain your daughter had no clue what her words meant to you.

I wish for you and, your wife the power of love that transcends appearance. The heart remembers.

Take a deep breath and, let your lovely wife read your words here. Life is meant to be lived.

Beautiful, thoughtful, loving post, Clarence. That depth of honesty is rare and I am humbled reading it.

Hold tight to your love and your wife. And consider what Betty said above. Maybe let your wife read your words here.

I'd like to join the chorus that is touched by your wise and frank discussion of the way you feel about sex, past and present.

I am eighty one and have not had sex with anybody else since I was fifty three or so. My interest in it flares up now and then, mainly in my imagination. Physical sex just is not that wonderful in old age, but delight in beautiful people sparks, as always, a sense of life being worth the bother.

Beautifully said, Ronni and all the commenters. I'm 67 and it's been years since I've been in a sexual relationship. The idea appeals to me, but the idea of touch in itself appeals even more.

Then there is the subject of self-pleasuring. I'm new here so I don't know if that's been written about yet, but think it's an important subject, too.

I have not had any feelings of arousal for more years than I care to remember, but I think it's due to my way of keeping myself content. If I am unable to do the things I want to do (like foreign travel) I am able to convince myself that I really don't want to do that any more. Self delusion, I admit. I think I brainwashed myself about erotic feelings because sex used to be one of life's nicest pleasures, but I haven't really missed it for many years now.

Being loved by a significant other is a different issue and I will miss that until the day I die. And I would love to have a man hold me all night and say lovely words to me. Sex is more than just intercourse. And that's the part I miss.

Like many of you, I now miss Touch from another human more than I miss sex. There was a time in my life when I, like some of you, spent more time thinking about Sex than just about anything else. I was a huntress. How strange to remember that! On the other hand, having Been There, manymanymany times, I have, oh oh oh, the most wonderful dreams. WOW.

Sex is S-ensuality ex-tra. age is no bar for that feel of extra glow on the face just at the thought of it. EEEnjoyable at any age the thought starts with the mind thinking of a soft touch and flow of energy through the body and sparkle in the eye with a slight smile is the mood setting to feel it, then having it slow at old age is like chewing gum experience liking it more as we chew it[do it] think of the blissful satisfaction and a wow in the heart if the partner is also delighted with the experience. same plane level kick does make it a very rich experience. the facial glow of both with be more. wouldn't it be worth for?

I found Clarence's situation sad but I fear not unusual. My wife is 67 and I am 77. We have been in love for more than 40 years.We have many children and grandchildren and we have sex pretty often. She still turns me the way she did when I met her nearly 50 years ago. Out techniques differ from what we did when we were young but through births and surgery and bad backs we learned to deal with minor incapacity. We still make love that is rich and rewarding for us both. We know we are blessed but believe that everyone can if they can talk and experiment and most of all love.

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