Margaret Jennings explores senior sexuality and speaks with author Joan Price who says good sex when you get older is about mindset and believe it or not, re-education.
When 70-year-old Diane Keaton admitted recently on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she was “sexually frustrated”, the earth didn’t exactly move, and that’s a good thing.
Instead, DeGeneres had a fun time with her guest and suggested that although the film icon had experienced many lovers in her “long rich life”, there was still time for her to attract more.
The earth didn’t move because it’s not such an unimaginable possibility these days that a woman of her age might still enjoy a sexually active life, or indeed seek out some fun.
But it’s not so long ago that even mentioning sex would have been taboo for an older woman, says Joan Price, author and blogger on senior sexuality.
“I started writing and speaking about sex and ageing in 2005,” she says.
“At that time, nobody was talking out loud about the details of having sex in an ageing body, or the exuberance of having sex with a well-seasoned mind!
“The idea of sex after 50, let alone 70, or 80, was hush-hush among those of us who were doing it and enjoying it. It was even more of a secret among those who were not having enjoyable sex, but wanted to. Talk about being in the closet!”
Price is well qualified to offer advice. Now 72, she has written three frank and personal books on sexuality as we age.
They are very readable as well as educational and hit the mark for those of us perhaps questioning why we have limited enjoyment of sex in the first place, regardless of specific age-related issues.
Her message is that it is never, ever too late, to enjoy yourself as a sexual being!
In her book Naked At Our Age, for instance, she also includes “real people, telling their real stories” and 45 experts giving feedback on their concerns.
She tells Feelgood that in her monthly online column for the website www.seniorplanet.org “People send me more questions than I can answer, such is the response.”
Sexuality is not age-bound she stresses: “What makes sex after 60 the best of our lives? Our bodies might be ageing, but great sex isn’t just about body parts.
“When we’ve got wisdom, connection, time, intimacy, a sense of humour, ease of communication, resilience of body and spirit — and no kids barging in — who needs youth?”
Results of a UK study released in January in the journal Age and Ageing, suggest that people over 50 who are more sexually active have better memory and cognitive skills than those who aren’t.
The researchers who looked at data collected from more than 6,800 men and women aged 50-89 included masturbating, petting and fondling, as well as intercourse, in their definition of sexual activity.
Price emphasises there are many benefits: “Sex — and by that we mean sexual activity and orgasm, with or without a partner — does all these good things for your body and mind.”
In her book The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50, she outlines 34 reasons why sex helps us age well, including reducing stress, enhancing mood, strengthening our immune system, keeping our sex organs healthy, boosting self esteem and hormonal levels, burning calories, keeping us younger looking and improving our longevity.
Yet while we enthusiastically take up pro-ageing advice about nutrition and “other” forms of exercise, why are we generally dismissive about sex?
It’s complex of course, though you may find the answer to some of your reservations in Price’s writings.
“We can blame our silence partly on our upbringing — we had been raised not to talk openly about sex,” she says.
“Our sex education, if we had any, was usually little more than how women get pregnant and why we shouldn’t do anything that could lead to sex, shame, and pregnancy. There was no education about sexual pleasure, except to avoid it.”
Even among those of us who managed to turn that lesson around, vestiges of the shame can still remain.
“Many of us truly believe that we’re no longer sexually vital and attractive if we have wrinkles or age spots, if our breasts and penises go south, our thighs wobble, and we don’t have easy arousal, lubrication, erections. We look in the mirror and grimace”.
The most important lesson is to realise that for every sexual challenge we face, there is a solution.
“That’s the key: to educate ourselves, to learn the new information that’s available,” says the sexologist.
Her monthly column is at http://seniorplanet.org/tag/sex-at-our-age/
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In a study of over 5,000 people, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston researchers assessed diet and looked at biomarkers in blood samples.
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