Sex Over 50? Sign Me Up!
Here’s a joke for you:
An 80-year-old man walks into his doctor’s office.
“Do you still have sex?” the doctor asks.
“Almost every day,” the man answers.
“Interesting,” the doctor responds.
“Yes, doc,” says the 80-year-old man. “Almost on Monday. Almost on Tuesday. Almost on Wednesday…”
Funny right? I laughed! But why?
What’s so funny about older people having (or not having) sex? Are we laughing with—or at—ourselves?
Sex As We Age
Do we still? Sure! Many of us do!
Should we still? Many younger people think not—or would rather not think about it at all.
While you can’t flip through channels any evening without seeing a naked breast or butt cheek, they’re all young breasts and butt cheeks! When was the last time (or first time, for that matter) have you seen a naked body over 40 on the screen?
Think about that. Think about why.
When it comes to older people, anything in the mainstream related to sex is taboo. Ageism has found its way to sex!
I’ve been writing this blog for close to three years now. And have never before written a post about sex.
Am I ageist when it comes to sex? Maybe.
Maybe it’s my inner prude. Maybe I’m still suffering from the “be a good girl” syndrome. Maybe it’s fear. (I know ridiculous, right?) But I am going walk the walk today, readers. Going to talk the talk.
Let’s have a little talk about sex.
Sex is Good for Your Mind … AND Your Brain!
First … let’s cover some of the benefits of sex—of which there are many.
Yes! Sex is one of the good things in life that is also good for you!
According to Dr.Nicole Didyk, a specialist in healthy aging, sex releases lots of good-feeling chemicals, among them norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin, nitric oxide, prolactin and endocannabinoid—what Didyk calls “your body’s cannabis chemical.” Sex also decreases stress and increases self-esteem and feelings of intimacy with your partner or partners.
In other words, sex is good for your mind. But did you know that sex is good for your brain?
Studies have shown that “Sexual experience restores age-related decline in adult neurogenesis and hippocampal function.”
Yes! Sex creates new neurons in the brain, improves cognitive functioning, supports long-term memory, and may help people think more clearly.
Deborah Long in her stellar article “How Sex Helps Your Brain,” examines several studies on the topic. One, in particular, that caught my eye was conducted by Dr. Barry Komisaruk at Rutgers University, where he and his team have been studying female orgasms for 25 years. That study “used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures brain activity by tracking changes in blood flow) to show that, in women, orgasm lights up as many as 30 areas of the brain.”
That’s a lot of lights!
“By contrast, crossword puzzles, sudoku, and memory games that are often used to stimulate the brain work only on localized regions.”
“So, tonight,” Long suggests, “put down the pencil and go for the — well, you know!”
Maybe not such a bad idea.
Retirement—Don’t Let It Be A Buzz Kill
But not all of us are as enamored with hopping into bed as we used to be. One poll conducted by Rob Pascale coauthor of The Retirement Maze found that “Only about 75 percent of those retired report that they have sex regularly (at least once per month) verses 90 percent among those of the same age who are employed.” These numbers seem to have more to do with whether a person is working than with their age.
While there are no definitive reasons for this downward trend in sexual activity among retirees, Pascale in his article “Is There Sex After Retirement,” postulates 3 possible reasons:
- Self-esteem often drops when a person retires—and low self-esteem is not exactly conducive to sex.
- Many retirees, according to Pascale, tend to feel less energetic than their working peers. Less energetic may translate into less energy for sex.
- For couples, retirement usually means spending more time together. Pascale thinks that maybe close quarters “provide more opportunities for skirmishes, which can put emotional distance between partners.” I have to wonder if there are any studies coming out about sexual activity among couples during the pandemic—talk about close quarters!
But there are other reasons for a decrease in sexual activity as we age, many of which have to do with general physical health. Rita Rubin in her article “Sex and the Midlife Woman” looks at research by Dr. Rosella Nappi, who has found that “about half of postmenopausal women experience vaginal discomfort attributable to a chronic condition called vulvovaginal atrophy. Symptoms include vaginal dryness, soreness, itching and burning.” If you suffer from vulvovaginal atrophy, there is help available in the form of topical therapies and oral pills. Talk to your doctor—ASAP!
Men have well documented challenges with sex as they age as well. According to Dr. Didyk, up to two-thirds of men over the age of 70 report having erectile dysfunction.
But hold on–not all is so bleak.
Sex Was Never So Good!
While there are legitimate challenges associated with “getting it on” as we get on in years, there are also new delights!
Just ask Susanne Braun Levine who wrote the book How We Love Now: Sex and the New Intimacy in Second Adulthood.
In her article “8 Reasons Why Sex is Better after 50,” Levine cites studies that have found “many women over 50 are having good, even great sex.” One study in particular discovered that a majority of the women participants over 40 (median age, 67) were “satisfied with their sex lives and that the proportion actually increased with age.”
Levine comes up with some pretty compelling reasons for this increase in satisfaction.
First–Gone is the fear of becoming pregnant.
Levine puts it this way: “Now the sex act is simply that, an act. Emotions may be as fraught as ever, but the act itself has become just another fun activity, like a game of tennis.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ll never think of tennis the same way again.
Toys Are Not Just for Kids
Many of Levine’s other seven reasons why “sex is better sex over 50” can be summed up with this: becoming older provides us with a greater freedom from judgment. We are (mostly) done with the pressure of having to “be good girls.” We are more confident, know what we want—and what we don’t want—and aren’t afraid to ask for it (or go get it ourselves)!
Older women often embark on a new and exciting road of self-discovery. Why not make sex a stop on that self-discovery path? If vaginal penetration is no longer an option–or if you’d like to add a little spice to the sheets–with or without a partner–there are other satisfying ways to remain sexually active and to give each other or yourself pleasure.
It may be as simple as experimenting with a new position or trying out a new room in the house. What about exploring those wonderful establishments–both brick and mortar and online stores–that specialize in Adult Toys? Women’s Health has put together quite the list in their article “24 Best Sex Toys for Couples in 2021.” (I bet they’ll work just as well in 2022–just saying.) From the “Partner Whale” to the “Union Double Didlo,” there truly is something for everyone. (While this particular article specifically lists toys for two, the vast majority of sex toys available are aimed at providing “singular” pleasure.)
“Wrap It Before You Tap It!”
I would be remiss if I did not mention one important caveat about having sex at any age—practice sex safely! While pregnancy is no longer a concern, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are—AND they are on the rise among older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “STIs have more than doubled in the past ten years among U.S. adults age 65 years and older.”
Screening for STIs is always a good decision, as is using condoms.
So … please protect yourself … AND enjoy!
Have you experienced a sexual (r)evolution post menopause?
I’d love to hear about it! Or any of your other thoughts! Please leave a comment or send an email. And please feel free to share on social media.
See you September 6th!
If You Know Another Amazing Woman (Or Person Of Any Gender!) Who Might Like To Join Us At WomanPause, Please Forward This Link: WomanPause
P.S. If you are inspired by wonderful writing, I’d love for you to join me on September 13, 20 and 27 for “Mirroring the Masters,” a writing class I am offering through the New York Writing Room.
*** Details and sign up here***
I’ve been trying to make time to read this post since the snippet arrived in my inbox & made me laugh. So refreshing & enlightening, as well as funny! I was surprised that as many as 75% of retirees are having sex regularly, but this is based on my own drop in libido since menopause 😉 I had no idea that sex was good for my brain in all the listed ways…I might have made more of an effort sooner if I’d known it could improve so many functions!
I remember hearing a couple of people on TV a while back saying “No one wants to see old people having sex,” & then they laughed. That really annoyed me so I shouted out “Actually, that’s exactly what we all need to see! Then maybe it would stand a chance of being normalized.”
Thank you for this…um…stimulating post ha ha. I loved it 🙂
Also, I just saw that your mugs are available to purchase!! Please lmk how much I should send to cover shipping too. Can’t wait to receive it xoxo
Ha! Sarita! You make me smile! Thank you, as always, for your … stimulating comment! I will send you the info on the mugs! XOXO
Love the pictures, Diane! Too shy to comment on the rest of it, except to say that your writing–‘was never so good!’
Congratulations on the new course and the coaching. I’m impressed!
Thank you, Greta! Sooo wonderful to hear from you, and I love your shyness! Writing this was actually quite a leap for me too!
This reminds me of when I was about 52 and my family doctor, who was my age, asked me if I was “STILL sexually active.” I was floored by the question. Wasm’t HE, I wanted to reply. If it was supposed to stop, I’d missed the memo. Or was it supposed to stop for only women no longer desirable for men his age? All I can tell you is that I stopped seeing this doctor because of his foolish and insulting question.
Doctors and women’s health! That’s a whole infuriating topic of its own!! Thanks for sharing your experience Christine! I am so glad you stopped seeing this doctor. I would loved to have seen his face/heard his reaction if you would have posed the question back to him! That STILL is the kicker–I’ve been asked by doctors (both male and female) if I’m sexually active but the STILL–yeesh!!!
“If it was supposed to stop, I’d missed the memo.” LOL!
Another awesome topic, Diane!
I’m always fascinated by the cultural messages about women, particularly in movies. I like to think things are improving since #metoo but in the movies even in the past 25 years, it’s pretty grim. Nancy Meyers is the director of at least two films with over-50 female leads (Diane Keaton in “Something’s Got to Give” and Meryl Streep in “It’s Complicated”) in roles where their sexuality was a central theme. I love these movies for this reason, but in the Diane Keaton film, there’s a scene where she’s accidentally seen naked by a much older man. Even though she is stunningly beautiful by common standards, the man is depicted as being kind of disgusted by the sight of her because she is not young. WTF?? And this was a film directed by a woman who was about 50 at the time! If women are perpetuating these tired beliefs it seems even worse to me. It’s no wonder we feel as if we aren’t as sexually appealing after 50. Enough of that shit! Anyway…I appreciate the space to talk about these things so we can keep pushing back on the ridiculousness!
It is/has been a long road for sure Sherry! And frustrating that there is so much further to go! I can’t even tell you how I struggled with posting this topic because my little post would be pushing against the “tired beliefs.” I haven’t seen either of those two films but will get right on it–so interesting how women who believe they are confronting the norm may be reinforcing it. WTF is right!!!
And, yes, “enough of that shit!” and let’s keep “pushing back on the ridiculousness!” AMEN!!
Loved the opening joke! Got a laugh from my husband too.
Good to have it reinforced that something that can be so good is good for you!
Thank you, Nicky! Glad your husband liked the joke! XO