Enforcing Family Elder Care
Elders and Youth: More Alike Than You Think

Sex in Old Age Makes You Look Younger (?)

There was something entirely different on my agenda for today's post but then that headline (minus the question mark) popped into the ol' inbox first thing yesterday and I couldn't resist tracking down who was claiming such a ridiculous thing. Following the link, I read,

”An active sex life during old age could be the key to maintaining and preserving a youthful look.

“The finding, carried out by the British psychologist "Dr David Weeks", was presented to the British Psychological Society.”

That report is from a medical news website but, in complete irresponsibility, without an iota of research referenced.

Some poking around the web resulted in a short notice (with no additional information) about a paper Dr. Weeks (who is the former head of old age psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland) presented a few days ago at the annual conference of the Faculty of the Psychology of Older People in Colchester, England. Again, no research is mentioned.

It took a Daily Mail story about Weeks's paper to get specific about exactly how much younger Weeks says you will look if you're – um, doing it regularly.

”Dr David Weeks’s research shows that older men and women with an active love life look between five and seven years younger than their actual age.”

Research? What research? The closest thing I can find is a book Weeks co-authored, Secrets of the Superyoung, published way back in 1998 which contained interviews with a bunch of celebrities like Angela Lansbury, Ben Bradlee and Jack LaLanne. As Publishers Weekly noted at the time,

”The second half [of the book] provides advice on how readers might join the ranks of the superyoung. But little fresh material is presented there: exercise your body and mind, the authors advise; eat well, reduce stress, enjoy sex, be happy. Despite a valiant attempt at scientific evaluation, there is no fountain of wisdom about youthfulness to be found here.”

The Telegraph, at least, made the doctor sound slightly more serious although, again, no research was noted:

”[Weeks] said sex has a number of health benefits which can make men and women look between five and seven years younger which includes; it causes the release of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemical which acts as a natural painkiller and reduces anxiety aiding sleep; exercise boosts circulation which is good for the heart; and it also causes the human growth hormone to be released which makes the skin look more elastic.”

The whole thing – all the similar-sounding, so-called “news” reports (there are plenty more I have spared you) – smells of titilation and wishful thinking based on nothing but an elusive paper at an obscure conference that may or may not be based on research that is 12 or 14 years old.

But if you subtract the silly notion that sex makes you look exactly five to seven years younger, Weeks's prescription for more sex among elders is worth stating and it's too bad the psychologist delegitimizes his point by sensationalizing it with a nonsensical, unprovable assertion.

Here's what I think: Neither Dr Weeks nor many others know much about sex and old people, and I suspect few physicians ask their patients about sexual activity. So aside from Viagra prescriptions (a large number of which are for mid-age and younger men), there is not much basis to know anything about elders and sex.

I also think old people who have a spouse, a partner, a friend with benefits or whatever other arrangement are, if physically capable, probably getting it on a whole lot more than younger people believe. Why wouldn't we – it's about the best-feeling and friendliest thing two people can do.

However, I think, too, that we old folks just don't talk about sex as much as younger people – maybe because we know they believe (as we once did) that they are the first generation since the world was new to discover sex and anyway, the idea of old people shagging is icky to them. So we keep our mouths shut.

And here is one more thing: Undoubtedly, sex has physical and psychological benefits. I've always found it to be a feel-good drug and fun too. But making an old person look seven years younger? Oh, please.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mage Bailey: The Cookbook Lady

Comments

Terrific analysis and reflection here, Ronnie. Oh, and by the way - I am becoming more and more accepting of being and looking exactly as I am right here and now - with, or without, sex, I mean.

Now I know why I look and feel old. Because I'm not getting it!
Chuckle I did when 'the research' aspect was brought up. Good mid-week reading on topic usually avoided.

Can't help but wonder - even if you do believe that it's important to look as young as possible, is anybody going to be thrilled to hear "You're 80? Why, you don't look a day over 73!"

I have always had trouble accepting interview or survey results regarding sexual habits as "research." Do they really think people tell the truth about that subject?

Ronni:
Have you seen recent photos of Hugh Hefner? I can hardly wait!

You gotta laugh! It aint working for Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, is it.

Jean's right....I don't think respondents in these surveys/research tell the truth.

It sounds like an old man's fantasy to me or, as you so wisely put it Ronni, wishful thinking.

And what about the concept that we know what someone who is, say, 76 or 88, looks like? You need to know this to conclude someone is looking younger than their years.

Well, I for one am sick & tired of sex, sex, sex everywhere you turn today especially the media.......& especially TV.....arghhhh. But then sex sells, doesn't it? Dee

Dee--
You are so right. It seems like every tv show has to have an obligatory unclothed bed scene. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to watch just sitting with my husband.

P.S. I guess this proves I'm officially an Old Curmudgeon lol.

I like your comment about sex being the most feel-good and friendliest thing two people can do together. Isn't that enough incentive? Works for me.

There are so many myths about aging, and "the old people don't have sex" myth is just one more.

Some years back there was a study of age and sex which found that many women who didn't have an active sex life lacked opportunity rather than desire. With men dying at a somewhat earlier age, the odds were against them. That's so sad!

Sex doesn't make older people look younger but it makes people pay a lot more attention to looking attractive to their partner and that includes diet,grooming and exercise all of which is beneficial and so is sex..

I married a man 11 yrs. younger. He makes me feel younger, whether my looks are younger time will tell, I won't.

I doubt having sex regularly does anything more or different than any other regular exercise would do -- although it would be a lot more fun.

I think that man had an agenda, don't you?

A great topic. I don't think it has any impact on how I look. If it did, I'd look 35! Just kidding, of course.

I keep wondering why I'm looking younger and younger.

I am hereby joining Dee in her Old Curmudgeon status. I do prefer some things left to the imagination. Sex is indeed pleasureable, but watching others engaged in that fun is icky, so I don't . . watch, that is.

But I am also irritated at media reports that don't go further than the canned media release. Maybe with newspapers down-sizing or folding, there are too few old-style journalists who ask the hard questions, including what research backs up conclusions.

Yes I too am sick of the sex in TV commercials. There is a lot to be said for the politctially incorrect ads of the 50's

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