Profanity and Crabby Old Lady
The Importance of the Comey Firing

Sex and Old People

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.

Up movie still

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:

” 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.

Lovely Still movie

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.

Vicious TV show


From my experience, elder sex is just like teenage sex ... it can be awkward, but it's still worth the trouble.

I can testify that the old saying "use it or lose it" does apply to sex. I lost it many, many years ago.

Thank you, Ronni. Important topic! I'm grateful to have someone who is still passionate about me, and vice-versa. I will always miss the level of flexibility and 'moisture' I had in my younger years. But, we adapt. Thanks for reminding me to take advantage of the good thing I've got. ;)

Anybody watching "Grace and Frankie" on Netflix? Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are priceless and sex figures importantly in the plot. It is really nice to see people my age in a successful series and it is funny as heck. I recommend it, especially series 3 for the business they get into!

Our Senior Center provides access to a masseuse and it's so relaxing. Having grandkids, family and friends who hug keeps the human contact exchange going.

One a more personal note, it may be time to order one of "Grace and Frankie's" creations. I used to worry about my kids finding a vibrator after I died but now I can't think why. Now I doubt they'd even be surprised.

Re your last graph: that is exactly what happened to me when a relative died back in the 1970s. It helped me begin to learn way back then how old people pretty much like younger people - just more wrinkly.

I'm a Grace and Framkie fan, too. Old people and sex is practically the centraal theme. Homosexual , heterosexual, and monosexulal -- each get their screen time.

It took me a google search to figure out the PBS promo photo at the end. Gonna check it out.

Well said, and bravo for taking on the cultural taboo about talking about sex at any age. That doesn't help! Right on, for the most part, but too bad the negativity crept in...."do the nasty"? ...woo...not nasty in my experience!

I'm going to defend myself about "do the nasty." It's an old-fashioned phrase used almost universally tongue-in-cheek. I've heard and read it all my adult life and never once was it meant to be taken literally. It's called irony in relation to people to think sex is dirty. I assumed pretty much anyone in my age group - at least, Americans - would know that. Apparently I'm wrong.

Now that I'm old, I feel remarkably similar to the way I did when I was about five years old. Sort of happily and peacefully asexual. When I was five, my body wasn't something I gave conscious thought to, it was just the means by which I climbed trees and played in the dirt and waded in the creek and watched the bees buzzing in my mother's garden and felt the sun beating on my face. Non-sexual yet sensual experience. A happy time, before the world intruded with school and lessons and schedules and endless competition to succeed and prove that you were okay as a human, in all the manifestations of human-ness.

Now it's like I've come full circle to that serene and non-competitive place again, soaking up the peace of the garden and the warmth of the sunshine just like when I was five. And the experience of being a vibrantly sexual being over many years has faded away more or less like all the other experiences and stages of life that I'm happy and grateful to have lived through, but don't miss in the least. I've moved on to a new stage and I like it. I'm a wise old five-year-old.

Keepin' it real--I can't believe I'm the only one who was taught by mom and other adult females that sex was, indeed, "the nasty" at least before marriage. Then--as if marriage = magic--it was supposed to morph into a wonderful, mystical, transformative experience. Maybe not so much for everyone. I was totally unprepared and inexperienced at the time of my first marriage at 21 (as was my then-spouse, also 21).

By the time I finished struggling with the only contraceptive device available to women at the time (the diaphragm), I was often ready to forget the whole thing! I did not then or at any subsequent time wish to become pregnant, and that was always a concern. Future ventures proved more agreeable, especially after I went on The Pill in the '60s (best thing ever despite total ignorance of the health risks at the time). I think a fair number of women in their 80s are pretty much done and that's O.K., too.

Yep I'm certainly past the sex stage, but really have the the "skin hunger" since my husband died four years ago. I long for a good cuddle and knowing a warm breathing body is next to me in the long night, but I don't miss the sex and am relieved that that pressure is gone now. Like Katie I'm enjoying the sensual pleasures of gardening , listening to nature, good delicious food with a glass of red wine and a warm comfortable inviting home. What could be better than that!

I reconnected with my first boyfriend from high school- and our shared first sexual experience was a very poor second place compared to our elder sexual experiences.

We were together almost 3 years in HS and have spent time together twice in the last 9 months with another time planned for this summer.

There's a chance we may be living together at some point but right now it's a long distance thing.

I wasn't at all surprised at how well we clicked meeting again and how natural the passion and loving care were. Again so much better than when we were young and didn't know anything and I feared getting pregnant more than anything else.

Our western views on sexuality have repressed generations of men and women. Hence the 'squee' yuck thinking if some of us.

I'm so glad I experienced the sex drugs and rock & roll time. It opened me up to a long and varied life of partners and I've missed that since being widowed 11 years ago.

At going on 75 years I greatly look forward to visits from Jim and I know he does too.

Viva elder sex and the acceptance of it by all those writers who have had difficulty accepting it!!

Massage is a wonderful thing and I congratulate you Ronni for taking care of yourself and feeding skin hunger.


Great topic. Whatever floats your boat, I say, be it a good romp if capable, the vibrator for arthritic hands a la "Grace and Frankie" and/or a sensual massage with essential oils. Advertisements on British t.v. are more explicit these days with the latest in non-hormonal moisturising vaginal cream.

I like the fact that people are more open to talking about sex between older couples and that there are more choices.

BTW, the last picture in Ronni's post today is of Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellan as an ageing same sex couple; (thespians, so full of back-biting drama) in 3 series of British t.v. programme called "Vicious".

I think you nailed it and are spot on with the term "skin hunger". I'm 63 and I so miss snuggling with my ex. In fact, her nickname was "snuggles".

I too am an avid Gardner and simply love plants. People bring me their "dead" plants and I have them looking beautiful in no time at all.

There are differences between the sexes. Men easily forgive AND forget. Women seem to love baggage and carry it around. I personally have suffered because of what some other male may have done to another female. And I get punished for something I didn't do, nor would I ever do, to a woman.

I've personally seen many men become bisexual in their later years only because their wife or significant other has no desire to be intimate. It's not the orgasm that's critical but rather it's the touching, caressing, loving, and giving that I miss so extremely much.

I love weekend get aways. But I've found that the memories aren't as fond or as special as they use to be. They are so much more fun when shared with another.

If one no longer cares whether they "use it or lose it" or simply have no desire for intimacy, it unfairly punishes the other partner. And this can happen or occur regardless whether your male or female. You feel your unattractive to anyone, especially if your soulmate won't do anything with you.

I'm sure many will disagree with me and I'm fine with that. But I know that's why I love gardening so much; it fills the void I have in my life.

I suppose at some point my husband and I might lose our passion for sex, but it certainly hasn't happened yet. I'm 65, he's 63 - and we have (wonderful) sex 3 or 4 times a week. We've ben together for 8 years - and our sex life is dramatically deeper, richer, and better than either of us had experienced previously. So maybe an important factor in having powerfully positive late-in-life sexual experience is having the right partner. We love, like and lust for each other - and experience each other as sexy and attractive.

In any case, thanks for the article!

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