The Secret Sex Lives of Senior Citizens

Why you should care

Because who doesn’t want to have sex?

Part of a weeklong series on aging boomers, or what we like to call the golden oldies.

A neighbor and I were chatting one afternoon when she abruptly excused herself, noting that it was nap time for her and her husband (both are in their 70s). Sleep must be the secret to longevity, I noted as I pictured the sweet older couple snoozing until dinner. My neighbor turned back and said with a wink, “Yes, nap time is very important,” and it became clear that neither of them would be getting any rest.

Turns out, they’re not alone. Despite millennial assumptions that grandparents don’t “do it,” Gransnet, the British social networking site for over-50s, recently conducted a survey that revealed plenty of older couples are enjoying sex well into their golden years.

A whopping third of those surveyed — with an average age of 64 — reported having sex once or more a week, and 2 percent said they find a reason for makin’ whoopee every day.

The survey polled 1,000 people and found that trust was the No. 1 factor for 98 percent of couples when it came to maintaining healthy relationships. Support, kindness, communication and friendship followed as must-haves for 97 percent. Some 65 percent of participants felt sex was an important factor, but half of them said they tend to stay quiet about their love lives around family and friends because, they assume, most “don’t like to think about older people having sex.”

“They’re invisible and sort of put on the shelf,” says Gransnet editor Lara Crisp, referring to a common perspective when it comes to older people and sex. The fact that a third of over-50s are enjoying sex regularly surprised Crisp in a good way. “People sort of assume that sex stops as you get older,” she says, adding how we should all be encouraged by the fact that that’s clearly not the case.

Plenty of older couples feel shy about the status and health of their sex lives. Crisp notes how the media tends to focus on sexual relations between younger people, and also points to the fact that many older people are loath to discuss lubrication or libido issues with their doctor. Menopause, which sees women produce far less estrogen than in their younger years, affected the sex lives of 44 percent of Gransnet’s respondents, for example, so it’s important to look for tips on how to boost one’s sexual enjoyment at any adult age. Ruth Westheimer writes in Dr. Ruth’s Sex After 50 that “the libido … resides in your brain,” and that the brain takes charge, whatever your hormonal or physical changes, or your age. “Many people discover they have some of the best sex of their lives after 50, 60 and even after 70,” she writes.

That said, nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they never get around to doing the horizontal bop, and nearly half of them say they miss it.

Westheimer, Gransnet and numerous other resources share lots of tips for how to keep the passion alive later in life, but Chicago psychotherapist and social worker Kelley Kitley offers simple, effective advice. “Sex begets sex,” she says. “The more sex couples have, the more they’ll want.”

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