Attitudes about sexuality and aging Updated: March 17, Published: June, Fantasies can help rev up your sex life. Myths, on the other hand, can stop desire dead in its tracks. Such myths aren't the legends from classical history. They're the stories we tell ourselves and each other to support the notion that older people shouldn't, can't, and wouldn't want to have sex.
This type of myth, however, bears as little relationship to reality as do the fanciful sagas of ancient gods and goddesses. Here are some examples of the most popular sexual myths and the myth-busting truths.
Only the young are sexually attractive. The culture we live in exalts youth. Turn on the TV or open a magazine and you'll be barraged with images of supple skin, firm flesh, and lustrous locks. But if your mirror is reflecting a different picture these days, you may feel like the party is going on without you. Older can be quite sexy. Sure, thinning hair, laugh lines, and a paunchy midriff are no picnic.
But think back on what it was that made you attractive in your younger years. Was it your soulful brown eyes, your crooked smile, or maybe your infectious laugh? Chances are, those attributes are still as appealing as ever. In fact, a survey conducted by the AARP and Modern Maturity magazine revealed that the percentage of people age 45 and older who consider their partners physically attractive increases with age. Sexuality in later life is undignified. Whether it's the white-haired grandmother fussing with her knitting or the loveable old codger puffing on a pipe, society is inclined to desexualize older adults.
When older adults do express their sexuality, it's often viewed with derision — for example, the stereotype of the "dirty old man. It's healthy for older adults to express their sexuality. People are living longer and remaining healthier.
And they are more vigorous than ever before. Former president George H. Bush went skydiving to celebrate his 75th birthday, John Glenn returned to space at age 77, and Carol Sing forged a new world record at 57 by becoming the oldest woman to swim the English Channel.
With this trend toward later-life vitality, why shouldn't seniors be allowed to cast off outdated and ill-fitting stereotypes in order to express their normal, healthy sexual appetites? Men and women lose their ability to perform sexually after a certain age. Vaginal dryness and erectile difficulties loom large as you hurtle past You may be feeling that you should just listen to what your body is trying to tell you: Sex is a thing of the past.
You can still have a satisfying sex life. While a certain degree of physical change is unavoidable, this fact of life doesn't necessarily translate into insurmountable sexual problems. For men, the Viagra revolution means most erection problems can be corrected with little medical intervention.
For women, high-tech vaginal lubricants and hormone creams and rings are viable substitutes for what nature no longer supplies. What's important for both sexes to remember, though, is that a softer erection, reduced natural lubrication, or a less intense orgasm doesn't mean you're no longer interested in your partner or in sex itself.
For many couples, these kinds of changes provide an impetus for developing a new, rich, and satisfying style of lovemaking — one that's based more on extended foreplay and less on intercourse and orgasm. Sex is boring when you get older. Drooping libido, slower rates of arousal, and the predictability of having the same partner for 20 or more years all add up to a ho-hum sex life.
Sex is as good as you make it. While it's true that a year-old will have a faster, harder erection and a more forceful ejaculation than his year-old counterpart, it doesn't mean the quality of the experience is necessarily better. On the contrary, the older man has better control of his ejaculations. Less penile sensitivity means he may be able to enjoy a wider range of erotic sensations and maintain his erection longer.
And his experience may pay off in improved sexual technique and a better understanding of what will please his partner. Many women begin to find sexual confidence in their 30s, and this blossoms with maturity. As a woman moves through her 40s, her orgasms actually become more intense, and she can still have multiple orgasms. After menopause, when she's free of any worry about pregnancy, she can give herself over to the pure enjoyment of sex.
Although longtime partners do have to contend with issues of familiarity in their relationship, these problems can be offset by greater emotional intimacy and trust. Because inhibitions often lessen with age, sex at 50 or 60 may include a level of experimentation and playfulness you wouldn't have dreamed of in your younger years.
Statistics on sexuality and sexual satisfaction In , Modern Maturity magazine and the AARP foundation polled 1, adults age 45 and older about the role sex played in their lives. The findings paint a detailed picture of sexuality at midlife and later.
The importance of sex Over all, the majority of men But an even higher percentage At age 75, the proportion dropped to one in four. Still, nearly three-quarters of respondents of all ages had intercourse once a month or more, provided they had partners. However, when the group was examined as a whole, one out of five men and two out of five women had not participated in any form of sexual touching or caressing over the last six months.
Men tended to think about sex and feel sexual desire more frequently than women. While rates of intercourse were similar for both sexes, more men than women reported engaging in sexual touching. Self-s timulation on a regular basis was also about eight times higher among men. Factors affecting sexual satisfaction Not surprisingly, one of the major factors associated with respondents' satisfaction was the availability of a partner.
In the 45—59 age group, roughly four out of five individuals had partners; by comparison, only one in five women over 75 had partners.
Declining health also appeared to have an effect on sexual activity and satisfaction. On a list of features that might improve their sexual satisfaction, the men ranked better health for themselves or their partners at the top. Although impotence emerged as a significant issue for nearly a quarter of the men, less than half of those men had ever sought medical treatment for the problem.
Survey facts and figures What participants said, in a nutshell Men A good relationship with a spouse or partner is important to quality of life While the initial prerequisites for sexual activity are physiological — functional sex organs, adequate hormone levels, and freedom from healt h conditions that interfere with the body's ability to respond to erotic cues — these elements don't guarantee sexual satisfaction.
Stress, anxiety, self-esteem issues, negative past experiences, lifestyle demands, loss of loved ones, and relationship conflicts can weigh heavily.
During midlife and beyond, these factors, combined with naturally occurring physical changes, can make you vulnerable to sexual problems. Lack of a partner It may seem obvious that not having a partner is an impediment to an active sex life, but it's an especially important issue for older people. By age 65, many people find themselves alone, through either divorce or widowhood.
This affects sexuality in a variety of ways. The partner gap is a particular problem for American women because their average life span 79 years is more than five years longer than that of men. Because American women marry men who are on average three years older, that can mean even more time alone.
Should a woman want to remarry, her chance of finding a new mate in her age bracket dwindles yearly; there is an average of only 7 men for every 10 women age 65 and above. All this boils down to the fact that, compared with men, women are likely to live a greater portion of their lives without a mate. Finally, starting a new sexual relationship after divorce or the death of a spouse can present its own dilemmas.
People often fear that they will not become aroused or be able to have an orgasm with a different partner. They also may be self-conscious about baring their body in front of someone new.
Because a new relationship may come along months or years after their last sexual relationship, some individuals feel anxious that they have "forgotten how to have sex" or that "the equipment doesn't work anymore.
Relationship issues Tension in a relationship can be deadly to a couple's sex life. In many cases, conflict is at the root of a sexual problem. Other times, a sexual issue strains a couple's ability to get along.
The following issues are often connected to sexual problems. Accumulated anger, hurt, disappointment, and resentment can fester, destroying closeness between partners. These pent-up feelings often extinguish the flames of desire.
For men, anger and frustration can interfere with arousal and getting an erection. Likewise, the breakdown of trust can be devastating to a woman's ability to reach orgasm.
Both partners can suffer loss of libido in a conflict-ridden environment. This type of disappointment turns toxic when one or both partners resort to criticism and defensiveness — two of the major harbingers of divorce.
In addition, one member of the couple may unconsciously withhold sex as a way of expressing anger or to maintain the upper hand in a situation where he or she feels otherwise powerless. Communication is essential for partners to build the trust needed for a successful sexual relationship.
By talking frankly about your feelings, you can foster acceptance and understanding in your relationship. This makes it easier for you and your partner to collaborate on finding solutions to issues, and it can prevent resentments from piling up. When conversation breaks down, anger and resentment are likely to build. Dialogue is especially vital as physical changes take place.
Vaginal dryness or erection difficulties can be wrongly perceived as waning interest in sex, which can trigger feelings of rejection and resentment. By articulating feelings, couples can sort out the physiological factors from the emotional and relationship issues, and address each appropriately.
Once the honeymoon is over, almost every couple has to contend with boredom sooner or later. The person who was once so electrifyingly mysterious to you may become as comfortable — and as alluring — as an old shoe.